Queen in all but name, one woman's battle to rule her kingdom, from the Court of Jerusalem to the glorious city of Byzantium.
Melisende was the oldest daughter of Baldwin of Jerusalem, a princess of the Franks and, since she had no brothers, heir to the Crusader Kingdom. The crown would go to the man who married her, and after to her son.
But Melisende was a strong woman; the law that forced her to marry instead of taking the crown in her own name was a thorn in her side. It was she who ruled the City and who juggled the politics of church and court.
The knights of Jerusalem fought in her honour, many of the best sworn to her personal service. She would not submit easily to a husband's rule, but must she to secure her kingdom?
A gripping adventure telling the forgotten story of the notorious matriarch of 12th-century Jerusalem, this third book in Judith Tarr's Three Queens series is perfect for fans of Elizabeth Chadwick and Conn Iggulden.
Readers are in for a surprise when they discover that the subject of this novel is not what its title promises. The 12th-century Frankish queen of Jerusalem is indeed one of the many characters in this long tale, but she's already an adult when it begins, and the events in her stormy life merely serve to create situations for the mostly fictitious protagonists. Tarr (King and Goddess; Pillar of Fire) vividly portrays the contrasts between the self-righteous, primitive Crusaders and the cosmopolitan, sophisticated residents of the sun-blasted land the Franks call Outremer. However, rather than focus on the colorful and strong-willed Melisende (a proto-feminist of operatic proportions), Tarr instead offers up a historical romance replete with standard-issue characters: blonde and noble Richildis of Anjou, who finds true love and sexual fulfillment with a noble, broad-minded and dark-bearded Byzantine; rugged Bertrand, Richildis's older brother, who has a lifelong liaison with enigmatic, half-Saracen courtesan Helena; valiant Arslan, their son, raised as a foster brother to Melisende's first-born, kingly Baldwin. As usual, Tarr excels at bringing historical events to life, such as the ill-fated Second Crusade and Baldwin's war with his mother over the throne. But her pacing is off this time, as the narrative is slow out of the blocks and doesn't hit its stride until after nearly half a volume of ho-hum action.