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Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade Paperback – May 14, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495622
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Throughout the medieval era, the Holy Land was a fiercely contested battlefield, fought over by huge Muslim and Christian armies, by zealots and assassins. The Third Crusade, spanning five years at the end of the 12th century, was, writes James Reston Jr. in this absorbing account, "Holy War at its most virulent," overseen by two great leaders, the Kurdish sultan Salah ad-Din, or Saladin, and the English king Richard, forevermore known as Lionheart.

Writing with a keen sense of historical detail and drama, Reston traces the complex path by which Saladin and Richard came to face each other on the field of battle. The Crusades, he observes, began "as a measure to redirect the energies of warring European barons from their bloody, local disputes into a 'noble' quest to reclaim the Holy Land from the 'infidel'." Of the five Crusades over 200 years, only the first was successful, to the extent that the Christian armies were able to conquer their objective of Jerusalem. The Third Crusade, as Reston ably shows, was complicated by fierce rivalries among the Christian leaders, by a chain of military disasters that led to the destruction of an invading German army and its emperor, and by the dedication of an opposing Islamic army that shared both a goal and a language.

Saladin, Reston writes, was a brilliant leader and a merciful victor, but capable of costly errors; Richard was extraordinarily skilled at combat, but his lack of resolve cost him many battles, and, ultimately, Jerusalem. Richard returned to Europe, Saladin to Damascus. Neither leader has long to live, and the peace they made would soon be broken. James Reston's splendid book does them both honor while examining a conflict that has never really ended. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Chronicling the often inglorious exploits during the third crusade (1187-1192) of King Richard I of England and Saladin, the sultan of Egypt, Syria, Arabia and Mesopotamia, Reston's panoramic narrative begins with the first crusade, launched by Pope Urban II in the last years of the 11th century. In the story's unfolding, we are privy to a world peopled by a bevy of characters, compelling and repulsive: starving, horse-and-grass-eating Christian soldiers, who, in sturdier moments, cut down the enemy with something akin to religious relish; mighty Muslim swimmers, traversing ocean waters and trailing leather pouches heavy with money and messages; the seafaring ghost of St. Thomas of Canterbury, urging onward fearful and flagging crusaders; Christian and Muslim men who betray gleefully savage contempt for women of all confessions. Some passages lend this account the flavor of historical fiction, complete with the requisite romance: a purported sexual liaison between Richard the Lionheart and King Philip Augustus of France. This is, nonetheless, a worthwhile introduction for those eager to be swept along by an often lively narrative thick with disturbing and provocative details. The interweaving of Islamic perspectives with those of Christians is especially valuable. This frankly accessible work may capture the imagination of those who have thus far resisted the pull of crusade history, presenting, as it does, both the extraordinary and less well known participants for whom this peculiar drama was the stuff of everyday life.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

This book was the most interesting book on the history of the crusades i have ever read.
larry edsinger
IF I read more on this period perhaps I will be set straight about liberties that may have been taken by Reston while writing a history that I found very engrossing.
Shikantaza
The fact that this work was not intended by the author to be a scholarly study does not excuse its lack of historical basis.
Historian

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Christian Williamson on August 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
Mr. Reston has produced an entertaining book about the Third
Crusade. Indeed, I stopped all other activities in my busy schedule to
finish the book.
Until I read this book, I had encountered very little about the
Crusades. Last year I read Karen Armstrong's "Islam," in which a few
paragraphs address the subject. So, to this point, most of my knowledge
comes from "Warriors of God."
There were a few things that struck me as odd about the book. First, no
footnotes. The book is full of odd and marvelous stories, and I wanted
to look up their sources. However, without the footnotes I could not do
that. Reston does provide a list of primary and secondary sources, but
it's unfortunate that he didn't give us more detail in footnotes.
Second, I was struck by his sympathies with the Muslims and relative
disdain for the Christians. I have no idea if his judgments are accurate
or not, but I did find it odd that his description of Saladin was so
deferential. This may be my westerner's view of things getting in the
way, but it's what I experienced when reading the book.
Finally, I couldn't tell what was true and what was not. Periodically
Reston would judiciously point out that a certain scribe might be
inflating figures or portraying his master in too favorable a light. But
then Reston doesn't use the same critical thinking, for example, about
the blood flowing in the streets of Jerusalem during the First
Crusade. It seemed to me that it would have helped if Reston had
supported that bit of lore with a not pointing out how it could be true
-- by some calculations in geometry -- that the Crusaders were literally
wading in the blood of their victims.
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159 of 190 people found the following review helpful By Historian on April 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Reston's work serves as a perfect example of poor scholarship. The fact that this work was not intended by the author to be a scholarly study does not excuse its lack of historical basis. As other reviewers have written, Reston attributes thoughts and motivations to his "characters" without any shred of historical evidence. In effect, much of this work is nothing more than historical fiction. It almost appears as if Reston quickly read over the primary sources along witha few secondary sources and simply filled in the blanks with his own ideas. Also, as in keeping with the worst of modern popular history, Reston simplifies the 3rd Crusade by portraying all Western European Crusaders as barbaric, evil, greedy, and intolerant while Saladin and other Muslims are civilized, goodhearted, generous, and tolerant. Such distinctions sometimes make for good sales in a politcally-correct market, but they don't do anything to advance any type of historical learning amongst the public. One of Reston's most unforgivable errors is his treatment of Richard the Lionheart's sexuality. Numerous times, he libels Richard (and Philip Augustus) by calling him a homosexual. The FACT is that there is ZERO historical evidence for this claim, and no serious historian believes it. The charge is based on one line referring to Richard and Philip sharing a bed together -- a common medieval metaphor used to describe the closeness of a political bond not personal sexual relations.

This work will give the reader a decent general history of the 3rd Crusade, but those not familiar with the era may have a difficult time separating Reston's facts from his fictions. I advise readers to go in a different direction. Unfortunately, a good work on the 3rd Crusade alone surprisingly doesn't exist.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "brentdavidjohn" on December 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Reston's narrative is, for lack of a better word, "juicy." Perhaps too juicy. He colors personalities and nationalities with broad strokes.
For instance, while at times citing sources which he admits to be biased, such as the English view of the French attitude during the Crusade, he isn't adverse to applying adjectives as if they were factual, such as "whiny" to the French crusaders who had to leave the comforts of Acre. Perhaps they were whiny, and speculation serves well enough in this instance -- but source material would be helpful.
And, at times, Reston quotes historical figures verbatim, sometimes entire paragraphs -- which means there must be a source for the quotes, but Reston doesn't provide them.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I was uncomfortably aware that, with its lack of source material and Reston's proclivity to add adjectives, I probably wasn't getting as complete a picture as I wanted. The book is categorized as "History," but without the academic -- if boring -- authority behind it, it may well be categorized under "Historical Fictional Nonfiction." Reston probably needed a more historically informed editor.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A good read. There are some things that the reader should be aware of.
First, the author is correct. Saladin was a great man. That is a point too little stressed in traditional teachings of the Crusade.
Second. There are other issues that helped "spark" the Crusade. For example, while the takeover of Jerusalem was without bloodshed in 638, it occurred as a result of military force, or what used to called in Arab Conquest. But the city still contained one of the holiest shrines for Christendom, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Finally, after many years of Muslem tolerance representing the high point of medieval rule, a new ruler's actions showed a "lack of sensitivity." Caliph Hakim ordered the Church's destruction in 1009. In an age of religious ideology, this certainly was not the smartest of actions.
In sum, a good book but one needs to remember that both sides showed the complete range of human emotions, both good and bad....
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