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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Books about the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus: Two Reviews

Today I review and recommend the seminal work on crusader Cyprus by Professor Peter Edbury and reproduce a review of The Last Crusader Kingdom, a novel that describes the establishment of Latin rule on Cyprus at the end of the 12th Century:

This is the "definitive" modern history of the crusader kingdom of Cyprus by the leading scholar, Peter W. Edbury. Professor Edbury is the author of numerous books on the crusader kingdoms, their history, architecture, legal code and some of the leading figures in the kingdoms. This book is a concise, chronological history of roughly the first two hundred years of the crusader kingdom, starting with the conquest of the island by Richard I of England in 1191 and ending with the war with Genoa in 1373-1374. The latter triggered the economic decline of the island, and saw the slaughter of many of the noblemen descended from the Syrian nobility, among them the last Ibelin. It is an absolutely essential source for anyone interested in medieval Cyprus, and an excellent introduction to the last but most enduring of the crusader states.

Edbury writes in an easy, straight-forward style, avoiding the excessive use of footnotes and not overloading the text with his evidence. Indeed, unlike many academic works, he is clearly concerned with telling the story of Lusignan Cyprus  rather than debating with his fellow scholars about sources and interpretation thereof -- perhaps because his subject matter has not been as heavily researched as, say, the Kingdom of Jerusalem or the various crusades.  The result is a book that intrigues and inspires greater curiosity, rather than bludgeoning the reader with details or debates about arcane topics.

The only weakness of the book is in its admirable (but inhibiting) goal of covering two hundred years of complex history in just over 200 pages. Inevitably, some events are condensed and simplified, perhaps, in some places too much so. For example, he follows the conventional (but patently absurd) version of Guy de Lusignan's arrival on Cyprus, suggesting Guy de Lusignan arrived on a depopulated island whose remaining population was happy to receive him -- despite that same population of 100,000 having just driven the Knights Templar from the island by an armed insurrection.  Ultimately, however, occasional oversights such as this are a small price to pay for getting such a great deal of fascinating history in a few hundred pages. The greater frustration is that after Edbury creates an appetite for more in-depth study of the crusader Cyprus, one discovers there are far too few books that look more closely at individual aspects of the history available on the market today.

 The following is a FEATHERED QUILL review.

Reviewers have stated this before: This author knows more history than anyone out there. In addition, she also knows exactly how to put on paper a historical book that excites, offers suspense, sparks adventure, and brings together a cast of characters that are literally impossible to forget once the last page has been read. 

In this newest tale, readers join up with John d’Ibelin, who is the son of the legendary Balian who readers met and became loyal to in previous tales written by Helena Schrader. We begin at a monastery on the island of Cyprus in the year 1193. Dozens of villagers have reached the monastery’s doors, and look like they have met with men of war, which they most definitely have. The villagers have had to defend their homes (yet again) and fight for their very lives against an enemy they cannot beat. However, this is nothing new for these people on the island of Cyprus. 

The English King first sold the island to the Templars, whose rule was not exactly popular with the natives. The Templars were forced out and now the island has been placed in the hands of one who has a mighty pack of supporters desperate to gain Cyprus as compensation for their own lands lost. If something is not done soon, the name of Richard the Lionheart – the ultimate crusader – will no longer have a legacy that includes Cyprus. There has to be hope somewhere; a man who could stand up to the battle and win the ultimate war. 

Enter...John d’Ibelin. As the son of a true hero, John has a legacy of his own he will one day have to live up to. At this moment, he is away from his own father and family, apprenticing for a Constable. A pounding comes on the door of the home owned by the Constable of Jerusalem. He is arrested for treason, sending John on horseback to alert his father of this horrible news. After all, if anyone would know what to do, it would be Balian. He is the man who enabled 3,000-plus to escape the Saracen and negotiated the surrender of Jerusalem which saved tens of thousands of more lives. 

When John arrives before his father, they are both confused as to how on earth the ‘paragon of chivalry’ who is Lord Aimery would possibly have committed treason. Something is truly wrong with this picture, and another war is about to commence. 

From a faltering dynasty to meeting up with pirates sailing the Mediterranean, this intricate and exciting book offers up the early history of the Kingdom of Cyprus. As the author states at the beginning, this is one kingdom that has largely been lost over time. There are very few facts left in regards to the founding of Cyprus, so this fictional work focuses on ways that these things could have happened. 

Quill says: Historical fiction fans, adventure fans – there is something in The Last Crusader Kingdom for everyone. Yet again, Helena Schrader has hit the ball out of the “proverbial park” with her intelligence and creativity. 

For more information on The Last Crusader Kingdom: Dawn of a Dynasty in Twelfth-Century Cyprus, please visit the website:

Dr. Helena P. Schrader holds a PhD in History.
She is the Chief Editor of the Real Crusades History Blog.
She is an award-winning novelist and author of numerous books both fiction and non-fiction. Her three-part biography of Balian d'Ibelin won a total of 14 literary accolades. Her most recent release is a novel about the founding of the crusader Kingdom of Cyprus. You can find out more at:

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