Envoy of Jerusalem
by Helena P. Schrader

"This was a vulnerable youth, a youth whose ties to his fellow Infidels were weak and frayed already."

The third book of this series begins with dire circumstances for Balian d'Ibelin. Salah ad-Din has taken much of Jerusalem after the disastrous defeat of Guy de Lusignan and his troops at Hattin. Many of the noblemen are imprisoned and the citizens enslaved. Balian is trapped in an indefensible position and all seems lost, but Salah ad-Din agrees to a surrender with the option for the citizens to be ransomed instead of put into slavery. With his family safe for now in the nearby but overcrowded city of Tyre, Balian is able to free a significant portion of the people but many more are sent into Muslim slavery. The kings of England and France each have their obligations to retake the Holy Land, but their interpersonal feuds make things difficult both abroad and at home.

The English-backed Guy de Lusignan's claim to the throne of Jerusalem is authentic, but was forged under dubious circumstances and his leadership or lack thereof has endangered the kingdom. The French-supported Conrad de Montferrat was able to prove his loyalty to the cause and his ability by defending Tyre time and again, but it is the English and their lionhearted King Richard who prove to be more dedicated in assisting Jerusalem and less so if it falls to Montferrat to rule it. Torn between family and duty, politics and combat, Balian d'Ibelin must make great sacrifices in his land and his comforts in order do that which he feels is in the best interests of Jerusalem and to drive out the intelligent, capable, and treacherous Salah ad-Din. Forging alliances and engaging in diplomacy as skillfully as he rides a war horse and swings a sword, the fate of the Holy Land lies in this unsung hero's hands.

Combining history and fiction in a way that is exciting but also informative, this book continues to shed light on the figure of Balian d'Ibelin. For readers who are purely looking for a history lesson, this book takes a great number of licenses and embellishments for the sake of storytelling, but this does not discount the author's expertise, holding a PhD in History. Indeed, discerning between fact and fiction is made easier at the conclusion of the book, at which point the author goes over the historically recorded facts and highlights where she opted for creativity. Because of the unreliable and biased record-keeping of the time, she even goes into further detail where conflicting accounts are concerned and provides an educated opinion on which one is more likely to be accurate.

From an entertainment standpoint, this story is well worth the read. Readers who are familiar with the earlier installments will have a much more fully formed familiarity with Balian and his family, motivations, and struggles. New readers will find there is enough information for those jumping in at this point even without a historical background to make sense of things and not feel overwhelmed. There are plenty of relatable, human characters to enjoy, with plenty of suspense, intrigue, and military action to keep things moving along at a brisk pace. Like all great historical fiction, this book succeeds in shining a light on a plausible series of events that many will be unfamiliar with, while still offering the qualities of more purely fictional novels that keep readers engaged and yearning to continue reading and see where the story leads them.

Envoy of Jerusalem is a 2016 Pinnacle Award and 2017 Feathered Quill Book Award winner, as wel as a recipient of a B.R.A.G. medallion.

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