I’ve never been a history buff; I’m not good at remembering things in general, let alone things that happened one thousand years ago. I enjoy historical fiction novels, but not history books. Shadow of the Swords is somewhere in between these two. It’s a serious novel, a bit dry in the beginning, but it ends with the heat and passion of the true history of the Crusades in the twelfth century.
Pitted against each other in this novel, as they were in the Crusades, is Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and Richard the Lionheart, the new king of England. When Richard’s father, King Henry, dies and leaves the throne to his second son, John, Richard takes the throne by force. Determined to win the love of his nobles and subjects, and the admiration of his family, Richard embarks on a war to reclaim the city of Jerusalem, which has just been lost to Saladin.
Thrust in between these two powerful foes is Miriam, a beautiful, independent, stubborn woman, scorned for her religion as a Jew by both sides. Neither man can deny their growing feelings for this emerald eyed beauty, but her actions will surprise them both.
Beneath the plot of Shadow of the Swords lies evidence of Kamran Pasha’s passion for writing and his love of Muslim history. He paints Saladin as a powerful warrior, terrifying and dominating, but also gentle and generous. Richard the Lionheart, known in history as a stubborn and evil tyrant, is shown as a human, with flaws but not always so heartless. The fictional love triangle is the tool Pasha uses to illustrate what these two men may have actually been like, aside from enemies.
Not knowing much about the Crusades, I chose not to look up the actual history until after I read this book. What I discovered was that Pasha stays true to the factual events of AD 1189-1192, using artistic license to insert enhancing characters, as most historical fiction authors do. The difference between Pasha and others is the depth of solemnity in his novel. While other historicals are often fanciful, light imaginings, Shadow of the Swords is thoughtful and serious. Miriam may be just an author’s tool, fairly predictable, but she serves Pasha’s purpose.
The first hundred pages of this novel were a struggle at times, but the last hundred were fast-paced and thrilling. I learned things about this time period and history that I won’t easily forget. All-in-all, Shadow of the Swords is a great novel for fans of historical fiction, who like something more serious than fluffy romance.
(I received this book from FSB for review)