Tuesday, December 02, 2014

For Fans of Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven"

A history resource article by  © 2014

Ever since I saw Ridley Scott's film "Kingdom of Heaven" I have been curious about its hero, Balian, and how much of the politics of the era and climactic battle were true.  Well, I don't have to wonder any longer.  Dr. Helen Schrader has released the first book of a trilogy about the life of Balian d'ibelin entitled "Knight of Jerusalem".  I'm taking it with me on a photoshoot in New York City and hope to get most of it read on the plane so I can write a comprehensive review when I get back.  Here's the official press release:

A landless knight, a leper king and the struggle for Jerusalem

Schrader Cover


The Holy City and the Christian Kingdom are under siege. Salah-ad-Din (Saladin), a charismatic Kurdish leader, has united Shia Egypt with Sunni Syria. Now he has declared jihad against the crusader states. Opposed to him is the compromised king of Jerusalem[Baldwin IV] – a youth slowly dying of leprosy – and one more individual: Balian d’ibelin.
Hollywood made him a blacksmith; Arab chronicles said he was "like a king."

Hollywood made him the lover of a fickle princess; in reality, he married a dowager queen.
Hollywood had him return to his smithy; in fact, he founded a dynasty.

Balian d’ibelin served a leper but defied Richard theLionheart. He fought Saladin to a stand-still yet retained his trust and respect.

Learn more about the historical Balian d’Ibelin in historian and novelist Helena Schrader’s three-part biographical novel, starting with Knight of Jerusalem.

The idea for this novel began after Schrader viewed the 2005 Ridley Scott film The Kingdom of Heaven. She enjoyed the movie but questioned whether any of it was true. Her research revealed that not only was Balian d’lbelin a historical figure but that the real Balian played an even more decisive historical role than the Hollywood film depicted.

Schrader’s biographical novel in three parts tells Balian’s story. In so doing, it describes the fateful historical events surrounding the collapse of Jerusalem nine hundred years ago and the Third Crusade, launched to recapture the lost Holy City.

Knight of Jerusalem, the first part of Schrader’s three-piece novel, focuses on Balian’s rise from obscurity as a landless younger son to a baron of Jerusalem. It documents his close relationship with Jerusalem’s "leper king" as well as his scandalously advantageous marriage to the dowager queen and finally his role in the defeat of the Saladin’s first invasion of the Christian kingdom in 1177.

The second book in the series will describe the fateful events leading to the defeat of the combined Christian forces at Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem, while the third book will focus on the Third Crusade. These books are due to be released in September of 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Knight of Jerusalem contains numerous genealogical charts, maps, and historical notes that help anchor people, places, and events and that further enrich the experience of reading about Balian d’lbelin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Schrader comments, "My objective with this series is to tell Balian's story and to describe the fateful historical events surrounding the collapse of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem as well the Third Crusade, which was launched to re-capture the lost Holy City. The historical record is the skeleton of this historical novel, but the flesh and blood – the emotions, dreams and fears – are extrapolated from those known facts."

"Historical fiction at its finest….Schrader’s description of the decisive battle of Montgisard is a delight. From strategy (attack at dusk or dawn?) to cavalry tactics (compact formation, stirrup to stirrup, initial shock, use of infantry to protect knights and their destriers during hand-to-hand combat) to battle cries (‘Jerusalem!’ ‘Vive Dieu St. Amour!’ ‘Allahu Akbar!’) to yellow-turbaned Salah-ad-Dinh bursting from his tent, scimitar flashing, the scene is sustained, vivid, tightly-written…Don’t miss this book. She’s nailed it." ~ Amazon review by Michael Schmicker


Author: Helena P. Schrader earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Hamburg with a ground-breaking biography of the mastermind behind the "General's Plot" against Hitler. She has since published three nonfiction history books covering the German Resistance, the Berlin Airlift, and women in aviation in WWII. As a novelist, she has published books set in ancient Sparta, WWII, and the Middle Ages. Find out more about her various publications at http://helenapschrader.com or follow her at http://schradershistoricalfiction.blogspot.com. For more information about the crusades and the crusader kingdoms, visit her blog at http://defendingcrusaderkingdoms.blogspot.com