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Summary and book reviews of The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman

The Land Beyond the Sea

by Sharon Kay Penman

The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman X
The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman
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  • Published:
    Mar 2020, 688 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Sharon Kay Penman comes the story of the reign of King Baldwin IV and the Kingdom of Jerusalem's defense against Saladin's famous army.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem, also known as Outremer, is the land far beyond the sea. Baptized in blood when the men of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in the early twelfth century, the kingdom defined an utterly new world, a land of blazing heat and a medley of cultures, a place where enemies were neighbors and neighbors became enemies.

At the helm of this growing kingdom sits young Baldwin IV, an intelligent and courageous boy committed to the welfare and protection of his people. But despite Baldwin's dedication to his land, he is afflicted with leprosy at an early age and the threats against his power and his health nearly outweigh the risk of battle. As political deception scours the halls of the royal court, the Muslim army--led by the first sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin--is never far from the kingdom's doorstep, and there are only a handful Baldwin can trust, including the archbishop William of Tyre and Lord Balian d'Ibelin, a charismatic leader who has been one of the few able to maintain the peace.

Filled with drama and battle, tragedy and romance, Sharon Kay Penman's latest novel brings a definitive period of history vividly alive with a tale of power and glory that will resonate with readers today.

Chapter 1
April 1172
Jerusalem, Outremer

It was a great destiny to be a queen, but it was not an easy one. Maria Comnena had been only thirteen when she was wed to the King of Jerusalem, a man almost twenty years older than she, a man who spoke not a word of her Greek while she spoke not a word of his native French. Even religion had not been a bond between them, for he followed the Latin Church of Rome and she had been raised in the Greek Orthodox faith. And she soon discovered that her husband's past was inextricably entwined with her present, for Amalric had two young children and a former wife, a woman very beautiful and very bitter.

Her new kingdom was not a welcoming one. Known as Outremer, French for "the land beyond the sea," it was a country cursed with pestilent fevers and the constant shadow of war. Nor were her husband's subjects enthusiastic about the marriage; she'd soon discovered that the Franks scorned Greeks as untrustworthy and effeminate and were suspicious of this ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Land Beyond the Sea is a big, sprawling work of historical fiction sure to please Penman's existing devotees, and this latest opus will likely attract new readers to her oeuvre. In spite of the book's length and complexity, it is an easy, captivating read—not quite a page-turner, but close. Historical fiction aficionados looking for a book to engage their time and attention need look no further...continued

Full Review (682 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Historical Novel Society
True to form, Penman again demonstrates her impeccable attention to historical detail….[she] has created a saga of epic proportions. She has given us insight into the inner workings of the minds of the great men and women of the time. There is a lot here to savor, and this book can't be rushed through.

Publishers Weekly
[A] riveting page-turner...Penman's well-honed skill for weaving deeply researched details into epic tales is on full display. Fans of medieval historical fiction won't want to miss this.

Kirkus Reviews
The religious and tribal conflicts, among both the Christians and Muslims...certainly have echoes for today. This book amply illustrates the extent to which fortune and personality dictated victory, détente, and defeat on both sides. A teeming 12th-century tapestry which Penman renders coherent, even eloquent.

Booklist
From fierce battle maneuvers to the emotional corridors of an unexpected love story, readers will feel intimately drawn into the characters' dramatic lives in Penman's splendid historical novel. Historical saga fans will pounce on best-selling and always thrilling Penman's latest, which offers a particularly alluring setting.

Author Blurb Margaret George
Penman brings the teeming—and scheming—world of the brief, blazing Crusader kingdom to vibrant life, with a cast of characters that includes the royal houses of Europe, the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller, the lords of the Church, Crusader nobility, and the surrounding Saracens. With her shining gift of storytelling, she makes this tapestry a colorful one, one that weaves all the richness of its setting and striving personalities into a stunning and meaningful whole. Elegant, detailed, and panoramic—like the world it describes.

Author Blurb Priscilla Royal
As one of Ms. Penman's oldest and most ardent fans, I believe The Land Beyond the Sea ranks as one of her three most accomplished and compelling books. Her books should never be gulped, only savored, and readers will be thrilled to both read and reread her latest.

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Beyond the Book

The Crusader States of Outremer (1087-1272)

The Near East in 1135 CE Sharon Kay Penman's novel The Land Beyond the Sea is set in the Middle Ages in a region known as Outremer (pronounced OO-tray-mare). This collection of European-held city-states was formed during the First Crusade and comprised of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa, the County of Tripoli and the Principality of Antioch.

Jerusalem is revered by the three major Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as a holy city, and has been important to all three for millennia. Historically, various groups have fought for control of it and the surrounding territory. From the 7th century to the end of the 11th century CE, the area was under Muslim rule. The series of wars referred to as the Crusades were set in motion when...

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