Envoy of Jerusalem: Balian d’Ibelin and the Third Crusade by Helena P. Schrader is a historic fiction that revolves around the various events that took place when Salah-ad-Din captured Jerusalem. While the majority of the kingdom succumbed to cursing the foolishness of the former king of the Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan, who led to their captivity, Balian d’Ibelin was busy doing everything in his power to lead the ransom related negotiations with the Sultan. Balian d’Ibelin was the second husband of Maria Comnena, the Dowager Queen of Jerusalem and the great niece of the Greek Emperor. With the help of his extremely reliable and efficient diplomatic wisdom, he managed to reach an arrangement that, if executed successfully, would allow him to free the survivors in exchange for an agreed upon amount of ransom. The another price that the French would have to pay was a complete surrender of Jerusalem to the Sultan.
The plot of the book would suggest that there would be only war-related events throughout the read; however, this could not be far from true. Although the central theme remains details of combat strategies, there are many other important events to keep a reader occupied. For instance, the marital troubles of Isabelle, daughter of the Dowager Queen, provided a much-needed distraction from a rather dark plot. Until the French King, Robert Plantagenet “the Lionheart” was introduced, I was highly impressed with Balian d’Ibelin. Before the King of England’s introduction, Ibelin’s honest attempts to rescue the slaves were the only thing that helped me see the fall of Sultan; however, after the entry of “the Lionheart,” my heart went straight to his bravery that knew no match.
As soon as I read about the disdainful ways in which Salah-ad-Din’s men treated ladies (young or otherwise), I began turning the pages praying that he receives his fate and loses the battle. There are many instances where I was revolted by his/his men’s comments regarding women. Their viewpoint of women being only required to satiate a man’s sexual needs and fulfill other stereotypical duties was extremely demeaning and distasteful. Their treatment of the slaves was even more offensive. The great difference between the opinions of French and Salah-ad-Din’s people came to my notice when I read the quite insightful exchange of conversation between Ibelin and Khalid. I was highly impressed by the depth of that conversation.
The pain of the people, whose family members were captured by Salah-ad-Din, was really heart wrenching. Ibelin was their only ray of hope and he never let them down. The author has really dedicated her soul to writing about Ibelin’s dedication towards his followers. His character has compassion for his people, love for his wife and a wisdom beyond age. On multiple occasions, he offered himself in exchange for the freedom of slaves, which shows a heroic bravery that very less possesses.
The writing of the author is quite engaging. There are many parallel stories entwined into one book that keeps the plot far from being monotonous. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down before knowing if Salah-ad-Din’s heartless people got what they deserved. Any fan of a good historical fiction would appreciate the heartfelt manner in which the author has written Envoy of Jerusalem: Balian d’Ibelin and the Third Crusade by Helena P. Schrader. I would rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
This book was an “OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day”. It can be found on OBC bookshelf by clicking on this link: http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/shelves/book.php?id=138663