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Children's Books
by Jeffrey Canton

Lionheart's Scribe is the final installment in Karleen Bradford's moving trilogy about the three Crusades organized by the Holy Roman Empire to recover Jerusalem from the Muslims between 1096 and 1190. There Will Be Wolves followed Ursula, a young woman accused of witchcraft and forced to join the People's Crusade in order to escape being burned at the stake. Told from the point of view of a young knight, Theobald, Shadows on a Sword dealt with the First Crusade, which gathered together of some of the greatest princes and knights from France, Germany, and Normandy. Lionheart's Scribe relates the events of the third and final crusade mounted by King Phillip of France and Richard Lionheart in 1190, after Salah-ud-Din has recaptured Jerusalem from the Christians.

Bradford's eye is fifteen-year-old Matthew, an apprentice scribe who longs to go on crusade but can never be a soldier because of his crippled leg. Unexpected events, however, lead him to rescue King Richard's sister, Queen Joanna. As a result, Matthew is attached to Richard's entourage as a scribe and translator. Like Ursula and Theobald before him, Matthew comes to the Crusades full of high ideals, but quickly discovers that behind its glories hide pain, blood, death, disease, and slaughter.

Matthew, like his predecessors, sees a dark side to the Crusades, a side that all three ultimately reject. Historical fact is viewed through unique fictional eyes in each novel. All of the protagonists are on the verge of adulthood, but still rely on their parents or guardians for direction. Ursula is an anomaly, trained to follow in her father's footsteps as a healer and apothecary. Theobald is a younger son whose own father can afford to give him nothing more than armour and weapons for the crusade, his foster father having been responsible for his training as a knight.

Unlike Ursula or Theo, Matthew gets a first-hand glimpse of the Crusades as seen by the Muslims through his friendships with two young Muslims, Yusra and Rashid. Matthew comes to realize that the difference between Muslims and Christians and Jews is all a matter of perspective, and that all three have more in common than the Christians will admit.

Bradford's Crusade trilogy stunningly brings to life a world long lost. Lionheart's Scribe is filled with historical information that will certainly spur readers to learn more about the events and the men and women who sacrificed themselves in those troubled times. The glories of the Crusades won't have quite the sheen they used to when you put down Lionheart's Scribe, but Bradford leaves young readers with new ideals, hopes, and dreams to replace the tarnished old ones. 


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