Saturday, 23 April 2016

New Review! Taking the Cross by Charles Gibson, 5 Cranky Stars




 
The novel is packed with action and adventure, plot twists and mystery.  Set in France in 1209, the book accounts the dramatic and confusing time of the crusades.  An often past over piece of history, when the crusaders, on their native soils, sought to kill heretics, who preached believes that were not the dogma of Catholic Pope Innocent III.  This bloody time in history where Christian was pitted against Christian was particularly confusing times and the precursor to the Inquisition’s reign of terror.  In the name of spreading the message of Jesus, innocent people were made to flee their homes or convert to Catholicism or be brutally killed as a heretic.  The author is not preachy or negative to any religion as he shows the reader what it means to be a Christians even at this volatile time. He uses words that are so precise and vivid to describe the setting of battles, country sides and the visions you can truly see each page come to life.  The reader can understand the dialogs of the characters by the use a few well-placed words in a French dialect.  It makes the reader hear the characters’ voices without making it hard to read.
The story begins with a group of knight and the lord, Raimon Rodgers, racing to meet the commander of an advancing crusading army before they reach and destroy the land and the many sects of Christians the Viscount has living there.  They are impeded by a small vacant eyed boy and his father, who Raimon Rodgers takes pity on.  Raimon Rodgers takes the father and his son under his protection.  The viscount is a compassionate and wise man, whose character flaw maybe being to compassionate.  The mindset of the trouble cavalier, Andreas on the first page, draws the reader in.  As the story progresses, the reader learns that the humans are not just battling each other but their inner demons as well in the Earthly and spiritual realms.  The story switches from the heroes to a town in a mother tells her daughter they must leave and go to another very quickly.  It seems that the girl, Eva, also has a gift of sight like the knight, Andreas.  As the author moves between settings, without confusing the reader, both seem to show a picture of the spiritual warfare that is taking place alongside the blood and gore of each battle.

 Eva and her mother move to a part of the lands the Viscount Riamon Rodgers has set aside for the widowed women of the men who fought to protect Jerusalem.  The women are a religious sect, who pray and are celibate much like nuns, but unlike many other women they could own land and some like the strong heroine, Eva, even worked as a carpenter, whose work adorns many churches alters.  The story takes place over a few months in 1209 when a particularly brutal attack took place of a holy feasting day.  The historical events seemed were very well researched by the author, who helped the reader understand the mindset of Pope, Crusader, Viscount, and his people.  As the story unfolds the hero and heroine who are not in the same places at the same time, but are experiencing visions that keep the reader turning pages.  The plot is not only of action and battles but of how Eva and a group of her family and friends solve a mystery set in motion by Eva’s father while he was on the battle field s in the Holy City, Jerusalem It also has the troubled soul of the hero, Andreas intertwine in the story as it unfold.  Every page makes the reader want to know more, learn who will live or die, what is the message Eva’s father is trying to convey through the letter and relics Eva inherited.
I would say this has been the most interesting book I have read this year and I give it five stars.  

The talented author has created a true page turning story that educates the reader on the story of this tumultuous time in history and Christ’s message.  This book made me question my knowledge of the crusades and who was truly a heretic.  I could see it taught as an added reading for a college course on history of the Middle Ages. It could be suitable for some advanced young adult reader, who would find value in the message of acting with love and compassion.  It is very rare to have such a strong heroine in this setting, but the vocabulary and battle scenes could be a bit challenging for some young readers.

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