Excerpt from Warriors of God by James Reston Jr., plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Warriors of God

Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade

by James Reston Jr.

Warriors of God
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2001, 240 pages
    May 2002, 400 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

The boy, Yusuf, grew up in Baalbek and Damascus. Though he was slight of build, his intelligence, his mannerliness, his generosity, his piety, and his modesty were noticed in the palaces of Damascus. Like a few others of his age, he was drawn to wine and women in his adolescence, but the seriousness of the historical situation eventually impressed him, and he renounced these temptations. Later it would be said that from the education of his sovereign, Nur ad-Din, Yusuf—later called Salah ad-Din or Saladin—learned to walk in the path of righteousness, to act virtuously, and to be zealous in waging war against infidels. In the court of Damascus the principle of striving in Allah's cause was emphasized, and the youth took to heart this invocation in the Koran: "Those who strive in Our Cause, we will surely guide in Our way, for verily Allah is with those who do right."

In 1163 Nur ad-Din saw clearly the next step in the unification of the Arab world against the European occupation. In Egypt the Fatimite caliphate (which practiced the Shi'ite rather than the Sunni way of Islam) was in disarray, and this presented the lord of Syria with a target of opportunity. Nur ad-Din ordered Shirkuh, Saladin's charismatic uncle, to undertake a succession of invasions to the south and ordered the young Saladin, now twenty-six years old, to accompany his uncle. Reluctantly, Saladin complied.

As Shirkuh and Saladin headed south, Nur ad-Din himself laid siege to the greatest of all the Crusader castles, Krak des Chevaliers, in central Syria, but the fortress was impregnable and the Muslim forces were turned back. The time was not yet ripe for a frontal assault on the Crusader kingdom.

In 1164, with Saladin in command of the vanguard of the army, Shirkuh conquered Cairo. But within weeks he was forced to withdraw when Crusader forces came to the aid of the Egyptian caliphate. Three years later a second invasion failed, again due to the support of the Crusaders, for above all else the Crusader kingdom could not abide a united Egypt and Syria. So desperate was this crisis considered in the Crusader kingdom that any baron refusing to heed the summons forfeited 10 percent of his income. Two further invasions faltered, until on January 8, 1169, in the fifth attempt, Shirkuh entered Cairo in triumph. Gloriously, he proclaimed himself to be the new King of Egypt—and then, abruptly, died two months later. Poison was suspected.

Pondering this reverse in Damascus, Nur ad-Din settled on Saladin as his uncle's successor. The young soldier was chosen not because of his strengths but because of the perceived weaknesses of his youth and inexperience. In truth, Nur ad-Din did not want a powerful competitor in Cairo, and he was certain that he could control his malleable and polite ward. In this he would be disappointed.

At first Saladin was the compliant subordinate. Mercilessly, he followed Nur ad-Din's orders to expunge the Shi'ite way of Islam in Egypt and replace it with the Sunni way. He requested of his lord that his father, Najm ad-Din, be allowed to come to Cairo. "My happiness will thus be complete," he wrote to his lord in Damascus, "and my adventure will be similar to that of Yusuf [Joseph] the faithful." Nur ad-Din granted the request. When Najm ad-Din arrived in the spring of 1170, his son greeted him with honors, even offering to resign and turn the command of Egypt over to his father. But his father replied, "O my son, God would not have chosen you to fill this post if you were not deserving of it. It is not right to change the object of Fortune's favors." Two years later, while riding near the Gate of Victory, the Bab an-Nasr, Najm ad-Din was thrown from his horse and died.

Between 1169 and 1174, while successive Crusader attacks sought unsuccessfully to undermine the grip of Damascus on Egypt, Nur ad-Din and Saladin developed an increasingly tense relationship after Saladin balked at certain directives from Damascus. Finally, in early 1174, Nur ad-Din had had enough of this impudence and mustered an army to invade Saladin's Egypt. But on May 15 of that year, as these preparations were under way, Nur ad-Din died. Absurdly, his power was handed to his eleven-year-old son.

Excerpted from Warriors of God by James Reston, Jr. Copyright 2001 by James Reston, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    North of Crazy
    by Neltje

    The remarkable life of a woman who carves her own singular path.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Cruel Beautiful World
    by Caroline Leavitt

    A fast moving page-turner about the naiveté of youth and the malignity of power.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.