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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: Shadow of the Swords by Kamran Pasha

Shadow of the Swords by Kamran Pasha
Publisher: Washington Square Press (Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
Genre: Historical fiction, Crusades
Trade paperback, 379 pages
Book Source: FSB Associates
My Rating: 80/100

From the Author's website:

An epic saga of love and war, Shadow of the Swords tells the story of the Crusades—from the Muslim perspective.


Saladin, a Muslim sultan, finds himself pitted against King Richard the Lionheart as Islam and Christianity clash against each other, launching a conflict that still echoes today.


In the midst of a brutal and unforgiving war, Saladin finds forbidden love in the arms of Miriam, a beautiful Jewish girl with a tragic past. But when King Richard captures Miriam, the two most powerful men on Earth must face each other in a personal battle that will determine the future of the woman they both love—and of all civilization.

My Thoughts:

This is a story abut the Crusades from the Muslim point of view. A point of view which sadly, I have not read about until now. "History is written by the victorious" or more accurately written by the English speaking, Roman Catholic Western world. This would explain why most stories and movies of the Crusade represent the English point of view. At a very basic level, the Crusades are about three faiths, Roman Catholicism, Muslim, and Judaism, all fighting for the right to control and worship in Jerusalem. This city has special significance for all three faiths, and since no one can come to terms with this city being shared, there is always the chance of upheaval and strife.


There are three characters in this story who represent each of the faiths, Richard the Lionheart as Catholic, Saladin as Muslim, and Miriam, a fictional woman representing Judaism. You can not write about the Crusades without thinking or bringing religion into the picture, and I think Pasha does a good job avoiding the religious landmines and walking that fine line. Pasha does have history on his side, even though it is a history most people don't know about.


History and/or Hollywood tells us that Richard the Lionheart was a very chivalrous, romantic, jovial, fun-loving, sweetheart kind of guy. Books and other entertainment have only helped to cement this persona. In reality, Richard is a ruthless, blood thirsty, glory seeking, SOB. He had his reasons, and the author gives us that background when he introduces Richard. However, in my eyes this does not excuse his brutal behavior. That is the way Richard is portrayed in this book and its true. If you don't believe me, do some research and you will see. The History Channel also has an excellent special about the true Robin Hood and the Lionheart "myth" is included in the discussion.

Miriam, one of the other major characters in this story, is an intelligent, beautiful Jewish woman, who does her own thing and apparently turns every man on his head. They just seem to fall in love with her as soon as they lay eyes on her. Can you tell I'm not impressed? Miriam is a fictional character, and I understand the need or idea to include a feminine lead and love story. Spices up an otherwise manly story, and includes the third faith that holds Jerusalem dear. Although she possess some good qualities, Miriam was a bit too condescending for me.

The other major player in the Crusades was Saladin. He was by far, my favorite character. I think in the end he was the reason why I wanted to read this book. I wanted to learn more about him and what made him tick. I did get a sense of Saladin and the kind of person he was. Saladin was a fierce fighter on the battlefield but dispensed justice even handedly. He looked at both sides of a situation and tried to judge right and true. Saladin was fighting to protect his people, and felt that all men regardless of religion, were equal in God's eyes. Saladin was the epitome of chivalry whereas Richard was not. Funny, no?

Overall I had a tough time with this book due to Richard's behavior and my eventual dislike for Miriam. This book started out great, but all of the crazy bloodshed was too much for me. I know the Crusades were brutal and major atrocities were committed, I just didn't want to read about it so much. I was much more interested in Saladin and his point of view. I ended up reading the first half of the book and skimmed the rest. I would still like to find out more about Saladin and will search out some reading material about him. Although I wasn't crazy about this book, I still plan on reading Pasha's first book, Mother of All Believers. It has been sitting on my shelf since last year and I have yet to get to it. Pasha's writing is very descriptive and he evoked emotions in me with his characters, whether I liked them or not. Pasha made me think and see the Crusades from the other point of view and I appreciate that.

My Rating: 80/100. I'm torn on this because I half liked it, however I did skim the second half the book, and that can never be very good.

Thank you to Julie from FSB Associates for my review copy.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Historical Fiction

 

I am an Amazon Associate.

13 comments:

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Great review!

Blodeuedd said...

Wasn't there something abut Richard being gay too?

Anyway, yes never did like Richard, Saladin was portrayed in a good way on Kingdom of Heaven so got some respect for him there

Staci said...

so true about the skimming of a book...I find myself doing that every once in a while and that's because I just lost interest but I still wanted to see how it turned out.

dolleygurl said...

I was so interested in this book from the initial part of the review. I agree with you that history is written by the winners and sometimes it is really hard to get to what REALLY happened. Thanks for this review, I will have to consider this book.

Marie said...

I am definitely looking forward to gaining some insight into the "other" POV.
Sad that the last half didn't merit the attention span though. WAAH!

Marie said...

I am definitely looking forward to gaining some insight into the "other" POV.
Sad that the last half didn't merit the attention span though. WAAH!

Darlene said...

Thanks for the great review Jen. No, skimming is never good - it means you're not enjoying it as much as you could. Too bad - it does sound like a pretty good book.

bermudaonion said...

Sounds like a great concept that wasn't executed as well as it could have been. I probably won't give this one a try.

Henry said...

May I just say that it might be more accurate to say that, in our Eurocentric, Western-oriented world (I assume most everyone reading this is from the West), history is written and read by people who are similar to us. In point of fact, the Crusaders were not victorious. After some initial victories, they ultimately failed and were driven out of that part of the holy lands.
And for truly well-written stories and novels with intrigue and straight-ahead pace related to the Crusades, I don't think there is anything that can surpass what Harold Lamb can offer. Also, Robert E. Howard (creater of Conan and King Kull, for example) wrote some very exciting stories related to the Crusades.

Henry said...

I meant to say ... driven out of that part of the world (or all of the Holy Lands).

Jenny Girl said...

Henry: I must confess I never heard of Harold Lamb. I want to say his name is famailiar, but I may be making that up. I'll have to look him up. THnaks for the comment.

Ladies: As always thanks for dropping by :)

Jenny Girl said...

Henry: I must confess I never heard of Harold Lamb. I want to say his name is famailiar, but I may be making that up. I'll have to look him up. THnaks for the comment.

Ladies: As always thanks for dropping by :)

stacybuckeye said...

I was thinking a little of what Henry said. We read the Christian view because we're in the west. I'd guess that in most of the Muslim countries the stories are from their perspective.
I know nothing about Saladin, but now you have me curious. Even if I think this may not be a book I'd want to read.

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