Book Corner: The Leper King by Scott R Rezer

srrKing 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.

Coronation of Baldwin IV

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?”

Death of King Amaury and Coronation of Baldwin

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.

British Library - Yt 12 152v
The discovery of Baldwin’s leprosy

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.

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Book Corner: The Pawns of Sion

715UoPpSVSLOver 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….

330px-SangrealAs 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.


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.

Be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

©2016 Sharon Bennett Connolly