Montferrat Coin Knight-Life

Roman-esque: Novels set in the Middle Ages

Susan Peek, Crusader King

Crusader King, by Susan PeekThis is also to be avoided. It's an example of 'improving' religious (in this case traditionalist Catholic) children's fiction from the US. The online chapter on the publisher's site has Baldwin and a fictional best friend chatting like 21C Californian teenagers. I half-expected them to start calling each other "dude" or discuss surfing - 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Crusade'? Apparently, the rest is even worse, according to Victoria:

I picked up this book before [Doc M]’s review in Knight-Life warned me off. It’s not as bad as she thought it was from the taster chapter on the publisher’s website. It’s much, much worse.
Baldwin and his best buddy Theo sounding like clean-living American teens, and Stephanie of Kerak addressing her husband as “Hawkie, dear” (truly, I kid you not) is the least of it. That after all is just bad writing and a misbegotten attempt to talk down to a teenage audience. More important is a cheerful disregard for any of the established facts. The battle of Montgisard, in Peek’s version, is won by Baldwin alone, with no experienced barons to advise him, at the head of a total of 300 men including squires and “old men”. In other words, no hint of Reynald de Châtillon, the Ibelin brothers, or the 500 knights mentioned by Runciman. Even weirder is the treatment of the battle of Marj Ayun (not named by Peek) in which all the Franks except Baldwin and a few Templars run away; all the nobles go scuttling back to Jerusalem assuming that Baldwin has been killed without bothering to check or look for his body;  and are in the middle of a fine old wrangle over who will succeed him (everybody throws their hat into the ring, including de Chatillon) when the King limps in, having been found by his best buddy and his Templar chums. Eh???
Even Saladin is depicted as a complete baddie – this is strictly a piece of Christian propaganda, and Peek isn’t having any nonsense about “chivalrous paynims”. But what irked me most was the treatment of Raymond of Tripoli, who is made to do the complete Richard III wicked-uncle act, rubbing his hands gleefully at the news of Baldwin’s leprosy, and plotting with Saladin to help him destroy the kingdom of Jerusalem for money. How it could have profited Raymond to wreck the kingdom, no matter what Saladin was prepared to pay him, is not explained.
 I suppose I ought to come out of the closet here and declare myself a long-term and wholly unreconstructed Raymond fangirl. I’ve always felt for that man. (And, I admit, since seeing KoH I’ll evermore envisage him with the "biaus euz" and mellifluous growl of Jeremy Irons, which in no way diminishes my fondness for him.)

Well, I like Raymond, too, so this is just not on! And Baldwin suffered enough in his short, awe-inspiringly heroic life: he doesn't deserve this kind of dross. Read Hamilton's biography instead. Or give the price of the book to LEPRA.

Incidentally, the cover art is a detail from a larger painting by the French comic-book artist Pierre Joubert, who illustrated the 2-part French children's book by Serge Dalens, L'Etoile de Pourpre, about Baldwin and his (fictional) squire. Joubert was closely associated with the French Scout movement, in which Baldwin seems to be regarded as a kind of patron hero and rôle model for youngsters.

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