- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 14, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385495625
- ISBN-13: 978-0385495622
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 103 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade Paperback – May 14, 2002
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"Splendid and thrilling. . . . [A] wonderfully told story."--The New York Times Book Review
“A refreshingly unbiased popular history of the Third Crusade which deserves a place on the shelf of every history teacher.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Reading this book, one sways between horror and exhilaration. The magnitude of human suffering is mind-boggling, but the warriors’ adventures are the stuff of boyhood fantasy.” —Forbes FYI
"Remarkably intimate and engagingly detailed."--Kirkus Reviews
From the Inside Flap
Warriors of God" is the rich and engaging account of the Third Crusade (1187-1192), a conflict that would shape world history for centuries and which can still be felt in the Middle East and throughout the world today. Acclaimed writer James Reston, Jr., offers a gripping narrative of the epic battle that left Jerusalem in Muslim hands until the twentieth century, bringing an objective perspective to the gallantry, greed, and religious fervor that fueled the bloody clash between Christians and Muslims.
As he recounts this rousing story, Reston brings to life the two legendary figures who led their armies against each other. He offers compelling portraits of Saladin, the wise and highly cultured leader who created a united empire, and Richard the Lionheart, the romantic personification of chivalry who emerges here in his full complexity and contradictions. From its riveting scenes of blood-soaked battles to its pageant of fascinating, larger-than-life characters, Warriors of God" is essential history, history that helps us understand today's world.
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Author, Reston, does a great job in doing exactly what he sets out to do: present the reader with a duel biography of two iconic figures through the prism of the Third Crusade. By the end of the book, I felt much enlightened about Richard the First (whom I knew slightly), and Saladin, the great Muslim warrior (whom I knew not at all).
Reston presents Richard the Lionhearted as hot-tempered, capable of both grand gesture and petty slight (as well as moments of sadistic cruelty), a brilliant military tactician and planner; but most importantly ennobled by something special that shone through in crisis - a kind of natural, inspired leadership - a true warrior king. Some of the best passages in the book are descriptions of Richard in battle, brandishing his crossbow and sword. I would leave it to a Muslim emir, speaking about Richard after the battle of Jaffa, to sum up the English King's nearly supernatural powers on the battlefield: "In every deed at arms he is without rival, first to advance, last to retreat. We did our best to seize him, but in vain, for no one can escape his sword. His attack is dreadful. To engage with him is fatal. His deeds are not human." The mere presence of Richard's banner approaching a battlefield often broke the enemy's confidence and spirit.
The real treat of the book for me was learning about Saladin. The portrait Reston paints of this great Sultan is one of a mature man, not given to uncontrolled bouts of temper, but instead always careful, controlled, and patient. Saladin was the great unifier of the then splintered Muslim world and achieved some of the greatest of all their victories. He was not up to Richard's mark on the battlefield, but he was certainly an equal to Richard as a strategist. Unlike Richard, Saladin was often generous in victory and was, if truth be told, more naturally chivalrous and kind than his English counterpart (or for that matter any other character in the history of the Crusades, Christian or Muslim).
One of my favorite tidbits from the book is the moment when, after the battle of Jaffa, Richard fell into a near delirium from his battlefield efforts and a fever brought on by the corrupt decay of the corpses. Richard requested by messenger from Saladin some ice and peaches, of which he was very fond. Saladin, never one to refuse the request of so great a warrior (he had watched Richard during Jaffa with awe from a nearby hilltop) granted the request immediately, sending the rare treats over by currier. Of all the characters, both Christian and Muslim, that marked the Crusades, only Richard I would have requested and expected such a gift, secure that he deserved it, and only Saladin, so generous and understanding of spirit, would have granted it.
This book really captures two great men, very different, both pre-eminent icons for two cultures. I highly recommend it. -Mykal Banta
I have not read a great deal about the Crusades, so it is difficult for me to judge how historically accurate Reston's book is. But I can say that "Warriors of God" is very entertaining, that the story is often moving, and that the characters are fascinating.
Saladin was a remarkable leader who united Egypt and Syria and captured Jersualem for Islam. Equally striking, according to Reston, he was a relatively decent man in a brutal time--he preferred bargaining to killing and went out of his way to avoid destroying the people that he defeated. Legend has it that he sent King Richard two fine Arabian horses when Richard lost his mount in a battle with Saladin's troops--after all, a King should not be on foot with his men! Whether or not the legend is true, it says something that it was apparently repeated and believed.
King Richard was cut from a much rougher mold. He was a charismatic but tough leader, and he was not above killing prisoners to make a point. But for all his hardness, he lost his nerve and the Third Crusade when he was on the verge of capturing Jerusalem. After he withdrew from the Holy Land, he embarked on an odyssey, spending a year as the captive of the Holy Roman Emperor and finally returning to England in time to save the country from his brother, John.
The focus of the book is on King Richard and Saladin, but the minor characters are intriguing in their own right. One of these was Sinan, the "Old Man of the Mountain," who ruled the cult of the Assassins. Reston calls him brilliant, ruthless, mystical and ascetic, "with eyes as fierce as meteors." Sinan's followers owed him unquestioning obedience and would regularly kill at his command. "Once, to prove the devotion of his followers to a Crusader leader, Sinan had given a fleeting hand signal to two fidai high in a tower at Kahf, whereupon the two leaped to their death in the ravine below." Not a person to be taken likely, and a reminder that sometimes the past is not all that different from today.
Reston tells us that shortly after Saladin died on March 4, 1193, his scribe Beha al-Din wrote "so passed those years and men, and seem, both years and men, to be a dream." In "Warriors of God," Reston has done done a good job of bringing those years and men to life for the modern reader.
If you enjoy "Warriors of God," you might also want to take a look at Reston's "The Last Apocalypse," which is an equally entertaining book about Europe at the turn of the first millennium AD.