Denerick's Reviews > Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade

Warriors of God by James Reston Jr.
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M 50x66
's review
Apr 14, 2009

did not like it

To be perfectly frank, I don't understand why the author even bothered writing this book. Here are my reasons, which really do need to be structured in this way (Otherwise my rant will be an unstructured melee)

1) Richard the Lionheart is a helpless bugger, isn't he? Everything he does he does wrong or for fiendish reasons. On the other hand Saladin is a Saint guided only by justice, fairness and all the rest. He also takes at face value that he was gay, and most remarkably that he had a gay relationship with Phillip Augustus! What utter nonsense! There is no textual evidence for any of that.

2) His 'criticism' of the sources. I don't understand his internal process for critically evaluating the primary sources but I highly doubt he even has one. Basically I think he looks around the chief narrative sources and try's to fit it all in to a chronology and sequence of events he had pre-structured himself, possibly before he even embarked on the evidence gathering period of his work. A great example is Richard at Jaffa, where he emerges from the sea with a crossbow. There is little evidence for that and the one manuscript which does argue that is decidedly pro-Lionheart. Its all part and parcel of Reston dumming down the history, fitting it all in to his pre-conceived plan of how he thinks the third crusade played out, and throwing it together in a vain attempt to link it to modern geopolitical struggles in that part of the globe.

3) The Saladin worship gets very irritating very early in the book. Saladin was no messiah (Even though personally I regard him as a good man and leader, in the context of the times) Reston even attempts to portray him as a liberator of slaves after the taking of Jerusalem, where he points out that Saladin and his brother et all 'did their best' to free as many slaves as they could. What nonsense! Saladin clearly had a policy with slaves - the markets in Damascus for slaves under Saladin plummeted due to the flooding of captured slaves in his reign. Slaves literally lost most of their value under Saladin because he enslaved so many people! And honestly, Reston treats us like imbeciles if he really believes he can convince anyone that Saladin disliked having to enslave anyone. This seems to me to be a critical lack of knowledge in his main protagonist.

4) Reston writes very much from the 'great men' school of history. Frankly, all we hear about is the struggle between Richard and Saladin. There was much more to the Crusade than that. I know its in the title but it is intellectually disingenuous to insist on this.

5) Its not even proper history. Its popular history and Reston isn't even an historian. You'd have to be a monkey to take his word on this on face value. Read some of Riley-Smiths, France's, Runciman's work to get a good perspective on the crusades. Keep well away from this sensationalising tabloidesque poppycrap.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Dan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dan To be perfectly frank, I'm not sure how you could interpret the vacillating, temperamental and cruel Saladin presented here as Reston somehow 'worshipping' him.

Denerick I don't think you've even read the book. If you'd read it you would know straight away (By the standards of that time of course) that Reston presents Saladin as a modern saint.

message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dan Had you read past the dust jacket yourself, sir, you would know that the author goes to great pains (and occasionally plays rough with citable facts) in order to draw direct parallels between Richard I and Saladin.

Denerick Dan wrote: "Had you read past the dust jacket yourself, sir, you would know that the author goes to great pains (and occasionally plays rough with citable facts) in order to draw direct parallels between Richa..."

I think we can respectably differ on this count. Though following a quick google search I see there are many who agree with what I say.

message 5: by Darrin (new)

Darrin It is not hard to see early on that the book is not so much history as historical novel. One review by a Muslim criticized Mr. Reston's understanding of the Koran. That lack seems to parallel his biblical literacy as well, which from my perspective seems to corroborate the charge of sloppy fact checking.

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