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Siege of Heaven    by Tom Harper order for
Siege of Heaven
by Tom Harper
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

First there was The Mosaic of Shadows. Then there was Knights of the Cross. Now, as the final installment in Tom Harper's breathtaking trilogy of the First Crusade, there is the highly recommended Siege of Heaven.

When Knights of the Cross ended, the narrator-protagonist Demetrios Askiates had barely survived during the Crusaders' holy siege upon the apparently impregnable walls of Antioch. Although beset by famine, foul winter weather, and dissension among rival factions, the loyal legions of Christendom ultimately defeated the Turkish infidels and then remained poised for their next objective.

When the action of Siege of Heaven begins in 1098, the thousands of soldiers of the Army of God (and its bitterly divided components) remain stalled in Antioch. Making matters worse, the plague has been intensifying its ravages upon everyone in Antioch, and Demetrios would prefer to remain there to be with his beloved Anna, but the demands of duty will take him elsewhere.

First, the loyal Demetrious becomes involved in a harrowing quest for a religious relic - St. Paul's hand - but soon he finds himself betrayed and nearly murdered; second, the fearless Demetrius travels with the emperor's new envoy to Egypt where they discover the exotic land's intriguing beauty and its blood-curdling dangers; third, when word spreads that one of the power-hungry Crusaders has seized Antioch as his own spoils of war, the Army of God finally overcomes inertia and begins the long, torturous move against the Crusaders' ultimate goal: Jerusalem.

As portrayed in the final sections of Tom Harper's exquisite historical novel, 'the capture of Jerusalem by the First Crusade in 1099 stands as one of the great cataclysms of history. Through a potent combination of zealotry, pent-up frustration and greed, the crusaders massacred more or less every man, woman and child in the city, depopulating it for generations to come and leaving a legacy of hatred whose effects are still being felt today.'

As a means of understanding the ways in which the past is so much more than mere prologue to the present and the future - and as a way of making the First Crusade come alive in all of its graphic horror - Siege of Heaven combines intrigue, savagery, and passion. Well-written, meticulously researched, exquisitely plotted, and overflowing with pulse-pounding action, Tom Harper's Siege of Heaven is an exciting representation of the First Crusade's lethal climax. This is historical fiction at its very best!

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