The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick

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I’ve always thought of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books as being a bit flowery, but I hold my hands up and admit that I’ve been wrong! This – which I got because I had a voucher for a free book from The Works! – was excellent, very well-researched and full of superb descriptive passages. It was set mainly in “Outremer”, in the early 1120s – i.e. after the First Crusade but before the Second Crusade. I have a very low opinion of crusaders, but none of the characters in this book were at all hypocritical: they were after adventure, money or both, with very little talk of religion.

Our Hero, Sabin (my one criticism of the book would be that “Sabin” is not really a very good name for an Alpha Male!) gets into a lot of bother in England and Normandy, and goes off to Outremer with a former crusader, Edmund, and Our Heroine, Edmund’s brave and beautiful daughter Annais. Needless to say, Sabin and Annais end up together, but there’s a lot more to it than that – a lot of adventure, but also some fascinating pictures of the lives of the “Franks” in Outremer.

What’s rather sad is that, nearly a millennium on from the First Crusade, in the age of relatively easy travel, so few people do visit Jerusalem, which should be one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations. Regardless of your personal religious views, for historical and cultural reasons it’s an amazing place to see, but the political situation puts people off. However, the people of the 12th century can’t really be blamed for that, at this distance. A very well-written book, about a strange and interesting part of medieval history.

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