Over on The Review blog!
Read my review of Scott R. Rezer‘s The Pawns of Sion.
“At first glance The Pawns of Sion looks like a straightforward story about the politics and rivalries of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. But once you start reading, you discover the novel delves deeper than you’d ever thought possible. Scott R. Rezer has created a story which merges two realms, that of man and that of the angels. The war between Salehdin and the Christians runs parallel with the greater, age-old battle of good versus evil. The author has cleverly interwoven the two realms in a deep, intense book. The plot is detailed and unveiled in layers the deeper into the book you get.
Set in the years immediately before the Third Crusade, the action moves fast and furious from the death of King Baldwin V, through the behind-the-scenes manipulations of the Order of Sion and the Magdalen’s attempts to stop them, while Salehdin takes advantage of the deep divisions revealed among the Christian lords. And underlying it all is the centuries-long search for the Holy Grail….”
I found The Pawns of Sion both fascinating and intriguing. It looks deeper into the origins of Christianity than other Crusader novels and the age-old battle of good against evil mirrors the irreconcilable differences of the Christian and Muslim combatants. There is the occasional missing word in the text, but this does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the book. The author knows how to evoke the reader’s sympathy – or distaste – for particular characters. You find yourself rooting for the good guys.
The full depth of the story is slowly revealed – each revelation releasing a new feature of the plot. And as each new secret is disclosed, it adds a little explanation to the motives and desires of the protagonists.
The language is, at times, haunting, drawing aside the veils between the realm of the natural world and that of the spiritual, giving the reader a sense of the surreal:
….Her magic shrank from the shadow of his evil rather than endure its touch.
“Did you think you could defeat me with so little a thing as the death of your beloved daughter?”
“You have no place here, Simon,” she hissed, ignoring his taunt. She drew a thin silver blade from the belt beneath her cloak. The rasping sound of metal upon metal overwhelmed the silence of the wood. “You never have.”
“Your words wound me, Mariamne,” said Amalric de Lusignan. “Why must we continually bicker when we might become friends?”
She walked towards him, sword on shoulder, shedding her immortal glamour and taking on a semblance men knew….
As with many people, the Knights Templar have always held me in awe and although they are not the heroes of the story, their Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort is one of the leading characters. The author makes good use of the known protagonists of the time, weaving his story around their lives and the events that shaped the Holy Land and its politics at the time. Each character is imbued with the qualities passed down by history.
Balian d’Ibelin is the good, noble knight, whose integrity is beyond question. Guion (Guy) de Lusignan is the weak, easily manipulated, indecisive king, while his wife, Sybilla, is the pawn he uses to gain power. Then there’s the young Ernoul, a fictional character who struggles to come to terms with his destiny. The historical characters are intermingled with the fictional ones, allowing the writer to create his own story within the historical record.
The characters are brought to life in the hot, arid backdrop of the Holy Land in the second half of 12th century. The author has recreated the Medieval Near East vividly, cleverly evincing the heat, the dust and the thirst, in the reader’s mind.
Although I found the duality of the story confusing at first, it didn’t take me long to find myself totally immersed in the concept, and in the general story itself. I like the depth of the story; the first few chapters reveal a complexity to the politics and religion of the Holy Land of the time. Individual stories are expertly woven together to make one great tapestry; a tapestry depicting the disasters befalling Outremer which would eventually lead to the launch of the Third Crusade. And behind it all are the origins of Christianity itself, the fight for good against evil and the search for the greatest relic, the Holy Grail.
It’s going to be very interesting, to see how this story continues in Book 3.