Summary and book reviews of Warriors of God by James Reston Jr.

Warriors of God

Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade

by James Reston Jr.

Warriors of God
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2001, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2002, 400 pages

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Book Summary

Sweeping readers into a mesmerizing period of history, Warriors of God is a provocative look at two towering leaders and the not always noble causes for which they fought.

The epic story of the battle for the Holy Land and the two larger-than-life figures at its center.

James Reston, Jr., the author of Galileo: A Life (called "masterful" and "brilliant" by the Washington Post) and the critically lauded The Last Apocalypse, a stunningly original portrait of the Christian world at the turn of first millennium, now re-creates the collision of the Christian holy wars and the Muslim jihad at the end of the twelfth century. A dual biography of the legendary Richard the Lionheart and the Sultan Saladin, iconic hero of the Islamic world, Warriors of God recounts the life of each man and reveals the passions of the times that brought them face-to-face in the final battle of the Third Crusade.

Richard the Lionheart, commonly depicted as the romantic personification of chivalry, here emerges in his full complexity and contradictions as Reston examines the dark side of Richard's role as the leader of the blood-soaked Crusades and breaks new ground by openly discussing Richard's homosexuality. Reston's compelling portrait of Saladin brings to life the wise, highly cultured leader who realized an enduring Arab dream by uniting Egypt and Syria and whose conquest of Jerusalem not only sparked the Third Crusade but ignited the first jihad and turned Saladin into a hero of epic proportions. In riveting descriptions, Reston captures the fascinating clash of the two armies as they battled their way to the outskirts of Jerusalem. There, Saladin's brilliant maneuvers and Richard's sudden failure of nerve turned the tide. Sweeping readers into a mesmerizing period of history, Warriors of God is a provocative look at two towering leaders and the not always noble causes for which they fought.

Chapter One
A Sultan Is Born

Early in the twelfth century, in the city of Tovin in northern Armenia close to Georgia, there lived an eminent family of Kurds, the master of whose house was surnamed Najm ad-Din, which meant "excellent prince and star of religion." Najm ad-Din had a boon comrade named Bihruz, a man of intelligence and charm, qualities matched only by his bent for trouble. Bihruz had the misfortune to be discovered in a compromising position with the wife of the local emir, who promptly had Bihruz seized and castrated and banished from his fief.

After this humiliation Najm ad-Din decided to accompany his disgraced friend to Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid caliphate, where the Caliph, Al Muqtafi li-amri'llah ("he who follows the orders of God"), reigned supreme over the Muslim world of the eastern Mediterranean. In Baghdad the Sultan of Iraq noticed their talents. Since eunuchs were then favored as teachers and administrators, Bihruz became the tutor of the Sultan's...

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Reviews

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Celebrated primarily as the romanticized figure in the legend of Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart was indeed a flesh-and-blood ruler who led an army of crusaders against Sultan Saladin at the end of the twelfth century. In this superb dual biography, both Richard and Saladin are presented as complex, multidimensional leaders.... A vivid historical reassessment of the major players in the Third Crusade.

Library Journal

[O]ffers the reader a captivating story in a lucid and often humorous style. Warriors of God is a fine example of narrative history and belongs in both academic and public libraries.

Publishers Weekly

The interweaving of Islamic perspectives with those of Christians is especially valuable. This frankly accessible work may capture the imagination of those who have thus far resisted the pull of crusade history, presenting, as it does, both the extraordinary and less well known participants for whom this peculiar drama was the stuff of everyday life.

Reader Reviews

imad

Excellent book. Required reading for these tense times. From an historical point of view extremely provocative and challenging.Very good narration and first class erudition. Refreshing open mindedness ( a lesson for some of the bigots that have ...   Read More

Joseph L. Moore

Well written and engaging.

Abe Arkeen

James Reston, Jr. makes the paramount event of the Middle Ages, the Crusades, come alive in "Warriors of God." He combines fascinating exerpts from Arab and Christian chroniclers, and weaves a tale worthy of the principals involved: ...   Read More

Anonymous

A well written novel of the Third Crusade. Author is accurate (according to history), but hard to keep reader's attention.

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