King of Jherusalem and Defender of the Holy Sepulcher, Baldwin walks the sword’s edge between the quarreling barons of his Court and the jihad of Islam. Between the two, however, a sinister presence lurks—a cabal of heretics who will stop at nothing to see its dark designs come to fruition. Baldwin is young, courageous, and a leper. In the midst of mounting political tensions and war, a beautiful woman befriends the lonely sick king—a woman who claims she is an immortal saint.
The Leper King is the 1st in Scott R. Rezer’s The Magdalen Cycle series of novels. Last year I read The Pawns of Sion, the sequel to The Leper King, for The Review, and thoroughly enjoyed it. So, when I was given the opportunity to read the story from the beginning, I jumped at the chance – and was far from disappointed. Luckily both books work well as standalone stories; they have the common theme running through the series, but you certainly do not have to read them in order. They are fantastic stories set around the Crusader Kingdom of the 12th century, combining fabulous adventure, war and intrigue with a wonderful touch of the mystic and magic.
The Leper King has everything; love, betrayal, the Knights Templar, heroes and heroines, Mary Magdalen ….. and the mysterious, dangerous Order of Sion which has its own personal agenda and is determined to bend the Kingdom of Jerusalem to its own will.
The fight for good versus evil is cleverly woven into the historical story of the survival of the western Crusader kingdoms against the Muslim onslaught. The individual stories of love and ambition within the royal family are set against the needs of the kingdom and the machinations of the great nobles. Murder and revenge, love and betrayal, magic and history; all go into making this novel a unique and enthralling story.
William sensed her before he saw her: a prickling of the sense like a cool draft through a chink in the chancellery door….The chapel lay dimly lit. She stood in the midst of it, all in white and gold, bathed in the soft glow of the candlelight.
“When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think they will be heard for their many words,” she said, throwing the words of the Christ in his face with a sly, wicked smile.
She was often that way with him: taunting and playful, annoyingly forthright. “You told him you were the Magdalen.” he said, ignoring her acerbic remark.
She laughed suddenly, musically. “You make it sound as though I were lying.”
He narrowed his gaze. He was in no mood for her playfulness. “Did you tell him all of it?”
Her levity dissipated like a vapor. In her anger, she was a fearful presence, terrible to behold. Candlelight and shadows were unkind to her unnatural beauty. “He is a boy, even if he is a king,” she said, taking a menacing step towards him. “I will tell him when he can best handle it – when he decides that what I’ve already told him is true.”
The hero of the novel is Baldwin IV, King of Jerusalem; he was only 13 on his accession to the throne and already suffering from the effects of leprosy. Baldwin struggles to keep his lords united while fighting against the mystical forces of evil. His strength of character and determination hold his kingdom together while he is faced with 2 implacable foes; the secret cabal that is the Order of Sion from within and the man who was, arguably, the Muslim’s greatest ever warrior – Salah ad-Din – from without.
Scott R Rezer’s characters are well researched and brought to life in wonderfully vivid; they are exciting, glamorous and mysterious. He demonstrates an understanding of the needs, desires and mentality of the major players in 12th century Outremer. The story of magic, Mary Magdalen and the fight between good and evil slip easily into the great landscape of the Holy Land and serves to highlight that the actions of the individual protagonists come together to make the greater story of the Crusader Kingdoms, and the fight for survival.
the descriptions of Biblical locations, of battles fought and sumptuous, exotic palaces, bring the 12th century Holy Land to life.
There are some very nice little touches in the book, which help to give it an individuality, such as the use of native names for locations, depending on who is talking. To the Muslims, Jerusalem is known as Urshalim, while to the Crusaders, it is known as Jherusalem. In much the same way as the language, the author looks at the struggle in the Holy Land from both sides, Muslim and Christian, even demonstrating how both rulers, Baldwin and Saladin, are faced with advisers bent on revenge or peace, depending on their personal experiences with their foes.
The many strands of the story are brought together for a thrilling climax of action and magic, that leaves you elated and bereft at the same time. It is a wonderful blend of history and fiction, drawing you into Baldwin’s world and the tensions with which the Holy Land was beset. The dual story of the eternal battle of good versus evil cleverly mirrors the history of the Crusades themselves and the battle of Christian against Muslim.
The novel keeps you entertained and on the edge of your seat throughout. It is unique, thought-provoking, fascinating and intriguing; evoking a multitude of emotions. In short, it is a great read and I look forward to reading and reviewing Book 3.
My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, is now available in hardback in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It is also available on Kindle in both the UK and USA and will be available in Hardback from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.