Title: Crusader King: A Novel of Baldwin IV and the Crusades
Author: Susan Peek
My Rating: 4 stars (out of five)
Summary in a Sentence: [An] historical fiction novel about the unusual life of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, the leper crusader king who - despite ascending to the throne at only 13, his early death at 24, and his debilitating disease - performed great and heroic deeds in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Teenagers and avid readers of all ages will be amazed at this story and be inspired by a faith that accomplished the impossible (from TAN Books' description)
This novel is geared towards teenagers and certainly reads at a lower level than my usual fare. Nevertheless, I must recommend it as a very well written tale about Christian virtue. I was inspired to study the life of King Baldwin IV after reading this novel, and overall it is reasonably historically accurate although a fair bit of artistic license is taken (as admitted by the author in her afterward). As a novel I found it highly enjoyable, full of great characters and stirring events. King Baldwin's heroic actions despite being afflicted by Leprosy and his quiet resignation to the Will of God is truly inspiring. The depiction of the Battle of Montgisard is one of the greatest scenes I've read, where the king prostrates himself before the True Cross and begs God to save his kingdom as his army of 300 faces Saladin's army of nearly 30,000 (as portrayed in the novel -- historical sources vary and some of them do offer the 100:1 odds, but others but it at closer to 10:1). The friendship portrayed between King Baldwin and his childhood friend Theodore is purely fictional, but an excellent study in a true Catholic friendship.
This is definitely a book I would recommend for any parents with teenage sons. Even adults will enjoy this book, I think. At any rate, it is a quick read -- I read it in between three or four hours total. It is a fairly light book, and therefore I don't have anything particularly deep to say about it. It's just a good, solid, Catholic book which is especially good for kids. I'd give it an 4 stars on my scale of rating.