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Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrader

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.

Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrader

Post Number:#1 by Reuben 92
» 20 Sep 2017, 09:12

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Envoy of Jerusalem" by Helena P. Schrader.]

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4 out of 4 stars
Review by Reuben 92
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Envoy of Jerusalem (subtitled Balian d'Ibelin and the Third Crusade) is the second novel by Helena P. Schrader that I have read, and it is a wonderful book. This novel follows Balian d'Ibelin and a host of other characters in the Holy Lands as they try to recapture cities and strongholds that have been taken by Salah ad-Din, Sultan of Egypt and Damascus. Richard I (known as the Lionheart) is an important presence in the novel, as well as a great number of diverse historical figures. Schrader sticks closely to historical fact - something which her PhD in history qualifies her to do - while weaving in fiction when necessary. For this masterful blend of fact and fiction, the thrilling plot, and Schrader's creation of brilliantly believable characters, I rate Envoy of Jerusalem a flawless 4 out of 4 stars.

The main plot follows Balian d'Ibelin, who features in all three of Schrader's novels in "The Jerusalem Trilogy". Though Envoy of Jerusalem is the third in the trilogy, it reads perfectly well as a standalone novel. I have not yet read the first two books, but had no difficulty understanding the plot. Schrader cunningly weaves in any essential background detail during the action of the novel. Balian is a brave and generous knight who is often faced with difficult choices and challenges. He is an attractive and balanced character, who always chooses the best thing for the people of the land rather than his own selfish gain. He is complemented by his powerful wife and erstwhile Queen of Jerusalem, Maria, who is a focal point for many of the different subplots. Her daughter, Isabella, also features strongly: she is a young princess who learns how to negotiate the world of intrigue and betrayal in upper-class medieval society to become Queen of Jerusalem herself.

I was extremely impressed by Schrader's unparalleled skill in capturing a very complex period in history in a manner that is utterly accessible and even addictive. Little-known characters are brought to the reader's attention, and well-known characters are presented in a new light (for instance Richard I is not portrayed as an unflawed hero, but as a brave, brash king who clashes at times with Balian). All facets of life in the Holy Lands are explored: we are given the stories of highborn nobles, lowly slaves, shop owners, priests, nuns, soldiers, troubadours, adults, children, Christians, Arabs, kings, knights and squires. There is really no corner of the kingdom untouched, or any social strata Schrader does not mention. The result is a satisfying sense of a complete society, and a narrative that lives and breathes with authenticity.

Schrader's style is also delightful - she writes with a simple authority that is perfectly suited to the events that unfold. Her engaging prose shies away from flashy effect, but for me this calm narration actually heightened the emotional impact of the distressing scenes of slavery and warfare, as well as making me trust everything that she said. I found the book extremely difficult to put down, and was glad that it stretched to 500 pages. To write a book of that length without ever losing the reader's interest is no mean feat.

The editing of this book was stellar - I spotted three minor typos in total, and none were particularly jarring. The novel is very well put together, with an abundance of supplementary materials, including a glossary, an introduction, maps, and genealogies, which all further bolstered the reliability of Schrader's narrative. I even enjoyed the attractive font, as well as the little motifs of a horsed knight and a shield that headed new chapters or sections. Schrader is an author who is quickly becoming one of my favourites. Her ability in the field of historical fiction is undeniable, and I look forward to reading several of her other novels in the future. I simply cannot find fault with Envoy of Jerusalem and I warmly recommend it to any fans of historical fiction. It is an exemplary book of its kind.

******
Envoy of Jerusalem
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#2 by Kelebogile Mbangi
» 21 Sep 2017, 00:37

I'm a huge fan of the historical fiction genre. The fact that the author was able to create a complete society in a believable manner makes my desire to read this book that much stronger!
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#3 by Reuben 92
» 21 Sep 2017, 02:49

Thanks for your comment - that is great to hear :)
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what...he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#4 by geoffrey ngoima
» 21 Sep 2017, 06:36

Sounds like Envoy to Jerusalem is quite sth, Reuben, your reviewing skills is "unparalleled", I can tell you that.
On my bookshelf.
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#5 by Reuben 92
» 21 Sep 2017, 07:15

Thanks Geoffrey, that is encouraging to hear! It was such an enjoyable read :)
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what...he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#6 by kandscreeley
» 21 Sep 2017, 07:22

Sounds like quite a book. I do enjoy a good historical fiction now and then, but I don't know... This one just isn't grabbing my attention. Thanks for the review. I'll keep it in mind.
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#7 by Reuben 92
» 21 Sep 2017, 07:57

Thanks for stopping by kandscreeley! I hope you do get round to reading it at some point.
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what...he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
Proust
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#8 by kislany
» 21 Sep 2017, 10:27

What a great review! I have a love-hate relationship with historical fiction, and I only pick it up when I'm getting bored of crime mystery and thriller novels. I'll keep it in mind or the future, though.
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#9 by Reuben 92
» 21 Sep 2017, 10:34

Thanks for your kind words kislany! This is one of the best examples of historical fiction I have ever read, so hopefully if you decide on this one in the future it will fall on the love side rather than hate :)
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what...he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
Proust
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#10 by Miriam Molina
» 22 Sep 2017, 06:45

This book was BOTD in May and I remember reading the sample. It didn't hit me as spectacular then.

Your intense review makes me rethink my first reaction.

Hmmm....
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#11 by Reuben 92
» 22 Sep 2017, 07:06

Thanks for the comment Miriam Molina. I find that I get sucked into Schrader's worlds very quickly - so maybe it just wasn't for you. Or maybe the sample wasn't long enough to do the trick! :eusa-think: Maybe you will give it another go some day.
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what...he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
Proust
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#12 by Kathleen McIlroy
» 22 Sep 2017, 15:32

After enjoying your first review I thought I'd check out some of your others - you are quite the analyst! Thanks for the individual, I'll definitely pick up a copy
K
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#13 by Emmanuel Arinze
» 22 Sep 2017, 23:42

The law of nature at work.Excellent author attracted exceptional reviewer.Keep it up,the duo.
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#14 by Reuben 92
» 23 Sep 2017, 03:03

Thank you to both Kathleen McIlroy and Emmanuel Arinze! I appreciate your very kind comments!
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what...he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
Proust
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Re: Official Review: Envoy of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrade

Post Number:#15 by Cloe101
» 24 Sep 2017, 03:27

What a review, I already like this book.
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