It's when I finish a really good book that I most wish I had the skills to write a descent review. To provide a quick overview of the storyline here is the write-up from HarperCollins:
In the year 1202, tens of thousands of crusaders gather in Venice, preparing to embark for Jerusalem to free the Holy City from Muslim rule. Among them is a lowly vagabond Briton, rescued from damnation by a pious knight who burns with zealous fire for their sacred undertaking. And so they set sail, along with dedicated companions—and with a beautiful, mysterious Arab "princess" whom the vagabond liberates from a brutish merchant. But the divine light guiding their "righteous" campaign soon darkens as the mission sinks ever deeper into catastrophe, disgrace, and moral turpitude—as Christians murder Christians in the Adriatic port city of Zara, tragic events are set in motion that will ultimately lead to the shocking and shameful fall of Constantinople.Impeccably researched and beautifully told, Nicole Galland's Crossed is a stunning tale of the disastrous Fourth Crusade—and of the hopeful, brave, and driven who were caught up in and irrevocably changed by a corrupted cause and a furious battle beyond their comprehension or control.
Galland is a Harvard graduate in the field of comparative religious study. She has researched the Fourth Crusade and uses it for the backdrop of this captivating and witty story. And although the history is brought vividly to life, it's the development of her characters that makes this such an enjoyable book. Oh, and the humor, too.
The story is told in first person narrative by two of the main characters: The Briton tells most of the story with occasional diary entries by Gregor, the knight, son-in-law to Boniface (a real person from history) and the protector of the Briton. This type of narration works beautifully in the telling of the story.
"I don't like someone having to explain to me why a thing is significant or moving to me to be moved by it. That's why I like music - all you have to do is experience it and you know all by yourself whether you've been moved or not.""The golden glow that suffused his being when he was doing what he knew was expected to him congealed into a tepid, grey fog of indecision when he had to mint his own moral coins."And finally some good advice from Jamilla to the Briton that I thought would be good for me to remember.
"If you meet a good man and see him getting pulled into politics, do him a favor and ruin his reputation early on."
". . . the trouble with hindsight is that you never have it until after you need it."
"That's like saying . . ." I tried to think of a metaphor that was worth of my scorn. "You may as well say, here is a king and here is a worm. The both sleep wrapped in silk, so are they not the same creature?"
"I think it is best to remain still during chaos. This is chaos now around us, and the next few days are likely to be so. But then things will be calmer, and we can see straight again. Right now, when so much is about to happen, and so quickly, and we know so little, the best action is no action at all. Let us draw breath and see what happens next."I was going to hold a drawing a give my copy away when I finished reading it, but I've decided to hold on to. Sorry about that. But I do highly recommend this book.