Official Review: The Emperor Strikes Back

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Shrabastee
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Official Review: The Emperor Strikes Back

Post by Shrabastee »

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "The Emperor Strikes Back" by Helena P. Schrader.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Frederick II Hohenstaufen, the Holy Roman Emperor, accuses John d’Ibelin of illegally holding the fief of Beirut and demands its surrender. However, the High Court recognizes John as the rightful lord. Disregarding this verdict, the Emperor sends an army to disseize Beirut. To the Emperor's dismay, the lords of Jerusalem oppose the assault and pledge their fealty to the King of Cyprus. Meanwhile, the Pope threatens to excommunicate Sir Balian, the eldest son of John, to further dishonor the Ibelins. Faced with a political stalemate, how will the Ibelins thwart the unjust advances of the Emperor? The Emperor Strikes Back by Helena P. Schrader is an authentic account of this battle.

This book cannot be considered historical fiction. The narrative is primarily based on the historical accounts of Sir Philip de Novare, a vassal of Beirut. Hence, the incidents and the characters are real and not mere figments of Schrader’s imagination. However, Schrader did an admirable job of giving the book the essence of fiction. This well-researched version delivers real historical facts without compromising the pace and thrill. In the “Historical Notes” section at the end, she mentions the places where she has deviated from the actual accounts for the sake of the story.

As this book is the second installment of the series, the reader might struggle to grasp the previous occurrences. However, Schrader uses the prologue to set the background by divulging all the necessary information. With this preliminary idea, it was easy to follow the course of the story. Also, considering the number of characters present, this novel requires undivided attention from the reader. Fortunately, Schrader demonstrates the ability to hold her readers captive. The entire book felt like an elaborate game of chess, with numerous battle strategies and counterstrategies. The suspense was so palpable at times that I found myself holding my breath. I never thought history could be this interesting until Schrader proved it.

The thorough detailing of the rituals and customs transports the reader to middle age Jerusalem. A life among gallant knights, purebred horses, eager squires, and mild-mannered ladies seems all too real. This authentic medieval setting is further strengthened by the glossary that explains unfamiliar terms to modern readers.

The major characters were admirable. The just and honorable John d’Ibelin was one of my favorites. Sir Balian d’Ibelin’s love and devotion for his wife set his character apart. With her wisdom, grace, and gentle personality, Lady Eschiva soon became my personal favorite. All the Ibelins harbor a deep love and sense of duty for Beirut and its inhabitants. Very often, this profound love for their country directly interfered with their personal lives. Seeing them struggling with the dilemma reminded me that these characters were indeed real.

History generally recounts the great battles fought between kings. The accounts are often skewed in the direction of noblemen and influential personalities. Schrader broke this norm by including not only the perspectives of the king and the knights but also those of the ordinary people. She revealed the brutal face of war and the destruction it leaves in its wake.

I do not have any complaints about this book. The large cast of characters can be daunting at times. However, the readers should keep in mind that each of them represents an indispensable part of the history. From a technical standpoint, a few errors did not detract from the reading experience.

Considering the above-mentioned points, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I would suggest this to any reader who enjoys well-researched historical books, especially those concerning the history of the crusades. However, even if someone is not very keen on history, they can simply skip the “Historical Notes” section and still appreciate the story. Naturally, there are quite a few violent scenes in the narrative that sensitive readers might want to avoid.

******
The Emperor Strikes Back
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kandscreeley
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Post by kandscreeley »

I'm glad you enjoyed this, but I know it's not my cup of tea. I rarely read historical fiction. If I do it's a special one. I'm glad that you enjoyed this, though, and it sounds perfect for lovers of this genre.
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Post by MsH2k »

This sounds like an excellent book. I like that the author uses the prologue to bring readers new to the series up to speed. The “Historical Notes” and glossary are also considerate additions. Thank you for a great review!

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Post by Ever_Reading »

To be honest, I can't seem to pronounce any of the names you mentioned. :lol2: I'd probably have a terrible time trying to remember them all. Nonetheless, I'm glad the author delivered the story from a diverse range of perspectives. Thank you for the wonderful review!
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Mbrooks2518
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Post by Mbrooks2518 »

I'm not really into historical fiction or non-fiction, so this doesn't seem like one I would enjoy. Great review, though!

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Post by LauraLeeWasHere »

I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I would suggest this to any reader who enjoys well-researched historical books
One of the things I love about your reviews and the reason I actually seek them out is that I know you don't shy away from going after the "big" books. Then you dig into them, ponder what you've read and shared it with us in such a way as to encourage us to not always head for the "easy" reads.

There's always a time when it's nice to be swept away for a few hours with an interesting story. But there are other times when a reader feels like something more than a snack. Then I look for the type of book you described in your above quote. It's nice to know I can check out what you've been up to, reading-wise, and find something to sate and satisfy. And I do appreciate it because I know it takes a considerable amount of time, effort and dedication. Time to reward yourself with a cookie. Or two!

Sincerely, LL :character-cookiemonster: :happy-cheerleaderkid:
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. John 21:25 KJV

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Post by Lunastella »

History generally recounts the great battles fought between kings. The accounts are often skewed in the direction of noblemen and influential personalities. Schrader broke this norm by including not only the perspectives of the king and the knights but also those of the ordinary people. She revealed the brutal face of war and the destruction it leaves in its wake.
You're totally right. We rarely get the perspective of the ordinary people in History books and it must be fascinating. The picture you portray of life in Medieval Jerusalem seems riveting. I'm glad the author includes a glossary to make the reader experience easier for the laymen.
The variety of topics you choose to review never ceases to amaze me. Thank you!

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Post by Nisha Ward »

Ah, history from the point of view of the people is always fun. It's also an illustration that sometimes fact is as good as fiction. I'm also intrigued by it being based more on historical documents than a complete re-imagining of that point in Beirut's history. It feels a lot more grounded that way, I think.
"...while a book has got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the reader it's got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the writer as well." - Terry Pratchett on The Last Continent and his writing.

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