The Crusader
Michael Alexander Eisner
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The Crusader

Michael Alexander Eisner
336 pages
January 2003
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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This fascinating story takes place in Spain in 1275, as Francisco de Montcada returns to the Monastery of Santes Creus after years of fighting and imprisonment in the Holy Land. His soul is burdened by deeds done in the name of God.

Francisco has been in the care of Father Adelmo, an exorcist who claims more than one thousand successes: although they did not survive, these victims achieved salvation before they died. Archbishop Santo of Tarragona appoints Brother Lucas to assume the role of exorcist for de Montcada, chained to the cell wall for his own protection. Trained by the more moderate and psychologically inclined Brother Vial, Brother Lucas is sympathetic to Francisco's temperament and holds the Knight in high regard.

Francisco de Montcada never craved the Sword or the Cross, but when his brother, Sergio, the heir, fell in love with God and was called to the Cistercian Order, their father convinced Sergio to go on Crusade instead. Unexpected tragedy leaves Francisco the only son; he dreams that he can redeem his brother by taking his place. With his cousin Andreas Correa de Girona, at his side, the men march into the mouth of hell.

The purchase of favors, indulgences and position belie the very humility exhibited by powerful bishops and abbots. Even the Cistercians, seeking to redress the worldliness of the Benedictines, indulge in their petty grievances, exhibiting the casual brutality common to the thirteenth century.

While using extreme cures for spiritual ills in battling for a soul, mortal wounds are often inflicted to enable salvation. When Brother Lucas takes over, Father Adelmo has exhausted every means short of a fatal cranial incision to release Francisco's evil spirits. Only with time does Brother Lucas draw out Francisco's "confession".

Brother Lucas' tongue-in-cheek narration of his actions on behalf of the Lord exposes the many flaws of power joined to worship. As he climbs the ladder of success in the religious hierarchy of the monastery, Brother Lucas explains the self-serving details of each promotion: "I never lost faith that the Lord or one of His illustrious servants would recognize that quality and reward my fealty."

In the heart-rending saga of Francisco's dark journey of the soul in the Holy Land, Christians slay Infidels, honor is betrayed by the horrors of the battlefield and the excesses committed in the name of righteousness. Eventually, Andreas' cousin Isabel de Correa travels to Santes Creus to aid in Francisco's recovery, where all three - monk, knight and maiden - are beset by unexpected dangers once more.

No participant is without stain and Francisco, an honorable man, is faced with the evils men perpetrate upon their enemies in the name of honor. This is a novel of chivalry, swordplay, savagery, solidarity, honor, deceit, damaged souls and finally, hope and forgiveness. Historically accurate and engrossing, The Crusader brings this bloody and tempestuous era to life.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Luan Gaines, 2005

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