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The Book of the Lion Hardcover – March 1, 2000
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"God wills it!" the Crusaders cry in battle. In this richly detailed and lovingly crafted story, Michael Cadnum explores the terrible paradox of holy war through the eyes of Edmund, a young apprentice metalworker, who finds himself unexpectedly rescued from prison and pressed into service as a squire to a knight. Without a bit of experience with horses or swords, Edmund goes off in terror and delight to help rescue the True Cross from the infidels in Jerusalem, and finds his manhood in surviving the siege of the sea-fortress Acre and the terrible bloody battle of Arsuf.
This is not the sanitized version of the Middle Ages that appears in so many young adult novels. From the first scene, in which the king's men punish Edmund's master by whacking off his hand, Cadnum gives us the authentic brutality of the period--its stink and bugs, random cruelty, drunkenness, and sudden death--as well as its colorful pageantry and lofty ideals. His previous medieval novel, In a Dark Wood, first showed his poetic skill with the small, vivid details that bring these times alive in all their strangeness. In The Book of the Lion, Edmund's journey to the Holy Land is full of such moments, as well as the heart-stopping adventure teens enjoy. The many young readers who are in love with the Middle Ages will come away from this story with their understanding of that time (and our own) enriched and deepened. (Ages 12 and older) --Patty Campbell
From Publishers Weekly
Edmund, a squire, awaits the joint punishment for his master's counterfeiting charges and escapes his fate when a knight asks him to join the Crusades. In a starred review, PW wrote, "The message about the romance vs. reality of war proves powerful, and fans of history and adventure alike will devour this well-crafted, dramatic quest." Ages 12-up. (Oct.)n
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Top customer reviews
The story is good, although the last 1/3rd needs proofreading. Many errors on the spelling of characters' names, and even noun/verb agreement.
This tells the story of a young man (17) who escapes the penalty for counterfeiting (having his hand chopped off) and is chosen by a departing knight to come on Crusade with him to liberate Jerusalem.
The story telling tends toward stream-of-consciousness. Narrated in the first person, the story gets a little jumpy, especially as fear and blood lust shut down Edmund's higher-level thinking skills.
So, within the book, your child will read the following:
"Two men stretched my master's hand out along the cold iron of the anvil, his fingers splayed out white against the black. I kicked and wrestled... We all fell silent, the only sound Maud choking back sobs. It took a heartbeat, no more. Steel flashed and rang against the anvil. A white, wriggling thing struggled in the char-dust on the plank floor and my master's cry was one of disbelief. Maud began to scream, and I was crying out, too, as one of the leather gauntlets picked my master's severed right hand from the coal dust. My master's cry took on a new tenor as blood pumped into the candlelight." p 4.
"As we continued south, perhaps an hour before sunset, two great brown mastiffs rushed through the brambles on the verge of the road, and seized our dog companion by the flank and throat. Within a moment our hound was ripped in two, blood flying, the two attacking monsters gobbling and growling as they tore the dog to pieces." p 48.
"I stood on something pillow-soft, and looked down to see a bright blue blouse, and a beard and earring, gleaming teeth. Before I could see if the man was alive, wounded or stunned, the army surged forward. I told myself I did not hear a dozen feet crushing the blue blouse into the earth." p 149.
"My past, my future consisted of this breathless climb. The rocks were slippery with red soup and broken teeth." p 149.
"Up some stone-paved lanes Frankish squires and footmen were celebrating, bare haunches rutting on the thin, splayed forms of pagan women. If this sight shocked me for an instant, I quickened my pace." p 160.
"The prisoners numbers two thousand seven hundred mouths. They accepted their defeat with no sound of complaint, waiting for the parleys that would agree on the price that would return them to their families and friends...." p 162.
"When King Richard strode from his tent that afternoon, the camp stirred, neighbor nudging neighbor. King Richard was in dress armor, the brightest mail, an indigo cape flowing nearly to the ground. The king, accompanied by his personal guards and Sir Guy de Renne, hurried over to the roped-off area where the prisoners hunched, heads down, twenty-seven hundred humans as quiet as sweltering beasts.
...Men crowded close. A few of the knights loosened the blades in their scabbards, the camp intent on the king.
King Richard said, "All of them."
And he made an unmistakable gesture, a finger across his throat.
... There was a space of time, three heartbeats, when nothing happened.
The first blow sent a wave through the prisoners, a gasp like a great wind. A few of the men struggled to rise, but the tethers around their hands and feet hobbled them, and they fell. A woman began to plead. The prisoners swarmed in place, trapped.
A child bawled, a noise like a crippled calf I had heard once... The male prisoners cried out, one or two quick-thinking enough to argue in their incomprehensible tongue.
...I kept Hubert from seeing it, held his face away from the sight, although the sloppy crunch of blade and ax, and the smell of blood and fresh-torn bowels could not be ignored.
...Many knights did not enter the harvest... When the tide of fly-carpeted blood crept close to us, Nigel kicked up a dike of dust to keep it from our feet.
...Nigel and Rannulf stood beside each other, arms folded, and only moved when the red tide crept too close." pp 165-167.
Edmund survives the Crusdae and returns home. So that's good.
It's an action-packed and interesting book that may not be right for many families. Parents use caution.
Michael Cadnum's novel THE BOOK OF THE LION renders a profusion of gory scenes of knights battling for the holy land. Cadnum's book gives great insight into the bygone world of knights and what gave knights vigor to fight. Cadnum's vivid, vivacious imagery engages readers' senses with the knights' pilgrimage, the varieties of food that the knights' consume, and the knights' manner of speech and correlations. Conflict drives Cadnum's plot as his knights relentlessly instill fear doling out punishment to those who transgress King Richard's law. Characters are believable because they have dept and readers see emotions in these warring knights. Edmund is young and vulnerable and he shares that fact with readers. Cadnum's tone is rousing and entertaining with a phenomenal plot and many characters to remember. It may be most gratifying to read THE BOOK OF THE LION unhurriedly.
It is one thing to reference some examples of prostitution and rape to give an idea of the zeitgeist of the Crusades; it is another to intersperse them throughout the book in such a cavalier manner, seemingly designed for the shock value or perhaps the entertainment value of the author as he knows he is writing for young children. I picture the author chuckling to himself as he slips these things past the parents and the teachers who are assigning the book.