Crusade is a historical fiction novel, published in 2007, and written by Elizabeth Laird. Historically, it tells the story of the Third Crusade, an attempt to re-take the Holy Land from Islam, which lasted from 1189–1192. The book tells the story of the whole Crusade, focusing on the stories of two boys, aged 13 and 14.
Adam, an English serf (unfree peasant), has lived his file with his mother, accepting his lot. But then his mother dies – unconfessed. Adam becomes the dog boy under his local Lord, and when a Crusade is called for, Adam jumps at the chance to save his mother's soul with dust from Jerusalem.
Salim, a Muslim boy, is leading a peaceful life in Acre – until the attack of the Crusaders is announced. To keep him safe, his father sends him to go with a Jewish doctor. But Salim's employment leads him to serve as the doctor's apprentice in the very army of the Sultan, Saladin.
Crusade is a fantastic historical fiction book. It feels very comparable to the classic novels of Rosemary Sutcliff and Henry Treece, partly because it is very well written. The moral themes are very well included, and the plot is excellent. The exploration of whether the Crusaders and Muslim aggressors are right to fight is very good, and it is done in such a way as to raise questions in the reader's mind. The historical parts are also well weaved into the story. The characters are well drawn, in particular the Jewish doctor who Salim is apprenticed to. My only small criticism is that the book doesn't contain the historically accurate descriptive writing that characterises Rosemary Sutcliff's work – there is less descriptive writing in Crusade. I would strongly recommend the book, and it is one of the best historical fiction books I have read.
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- Reading Age: 12+
- Reading Aloud Age: 11+
In general, despite the subject matter, the book keeps away from graphic descriptions. A few are included – the doctor treats some patients with terrible wounds – but they're not too bad. However, they might upset younger children. Most of the time, the book deals with the subject of the war sensitively.
17-year-old Jennet has a relationship with the 15-year-old Lord Robert, the current Lord's son. This results in her having a baby. Robert then claims he did not father the baby.
While the book condemns the Crusades, and various other incorrect "Christian" practices, it does not state what the correct, Biblical teachings are. (The Crusades and beliefs that the Crusaders held are completely unbiblical.) A good grounding in the Bible is, therefore, required. Alternatively, a read-aloud, where the parent could explain the Biblical teachings, would also be a good option.
If you like this you might like
- Other books by Elizabeth Laird.
- Try reading books written by Rosemary Sutcliff and Henry Treece, both good historical fiction writers.
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