The “wheel of history” is an ancient concept, embedded in Hindu, Buddhist and other philosophies worldwide. Civilizations rise and fall and rise again, history endlessly repeating itself. Instead of humanity evolving inexorably higher (the Western view), we repeat the same errors, suffer the same consequences, are forced to start over. Progress is an illusion.

After finishing Helena Schrader’s finely-crafted Crusades novel, "Envoy of Jerusalem," the third in her Ibelin trilogy, I found myself sympathetically pondering the Orient’s morose view of history. The ‘Holy Land” suffered through nine Crusades (1095-1291). During those 200 years, cites are captured, lost, recaptured; fortunes are wasted; thousands perish on both sides, their lips praising their respective gods. And in the end, the wheel of history revolves one full turn, bringing us right back to where we started. Popes and kings tire of the conflict, turn their attention elsewhere, and status quo returns to the Middle East.

But we experience history as individuals. If the Crusades turned out to be a monumental waste of money and life, they still provide a dramatic stage for an unforgettable life.

Biographer Helena Schrader rescued the fascinating but largely forgotten Balian d’Ibelin -- knight, warrior and diplomat -- from the amnesia of time with her debut novel “Knight of Jerusalem” (2014), knocking the dust off his bones and bringing him back to life for thousands of delighted readers, including myself.

Book two, BRAG medallion winner "Defender of Jerusalem" (2015), swiftly followed, the tale ending with Balian’s humiliation and the dramatic fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187.

As book three starts, the shocking news has reached Tyre: Islam once again triumphantly occupies the Holy City. The site of Christ’s Passion, the home of the Holy Sepulcher is lost. But the wheel of history is turning, King Richard the Lionheart and an English fleet carrying 650 knights, 1,300 horses, and 1,300 squires are hastening to reinforce the beaten Christian forces and retake the lost city. The surviving Christian fighters are defiant.

“Salah-ad-Din, you have the Tomb.
But it is dark, deserted gloom;
For Christ is risen! And by our side!
We are alive and cannot die;
We will retake Jerusalem!”

Many trilogies today (both book and film) are tired, lazy, artless, commercial-driven disappointments. Three books and 1300 pages in, Schrader’s Balian biography remains fresh, powerful, gripping, the story-telling artful, the pacing superb.

Highly recommended.
1 like ·   •  3 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on January 29, 2017 18:46 • 153 views • Tags: balian-d-ibelin, crusades, envoy-of-jerusalem, helena-schrader, michael-schmicker, third-crusade
Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Philip (new)

Philip Bailey Enough faith in Mr. Schmickers recommendations I just purchased all three books.

message 2: by Michael (new)

Michael Schmicker Philip wrote: "Enough faith in Mr. Schmickers recommendations I just purchased all three books."
Phil: Sure hope you enjoy them (or I'm in trouble. :-). I do think Helena's books are very well written (and meticulously researched). She's a pro.

message 3: by Helena (last edited Feb 04, 2017 04:48AM) (new)

Helena Schrader Philip wrote: "Enough faith in Mr. Schmickers recommendations I just purchased all three books."

Thank you, Philip! And if you have complaints come to me not Michael, but if you like them, please write a review. Thanks again.

back to top