50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
A flawed masterpiece,
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This review is from: God's War: a New History of the Crusades (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
Read the other reviews and you will see people either find this essential or annoyingly flawed. They are both right. No book has attempted to encompass not only the Eastern Crusades but also the crusading efforts in Northern Europe, Spain and looking at the later crusades too. Never has so much info covering so many cultures been crammed into 1 volume.
But, and it is a big but, there is an old literary saying "if you have a complex tale to tell then tell it simply" and this is where the book falls down. The language is dry and uses words such as fissiparous which means not only do you have to keep a plethora of characters, dates and events in your mind but you have to keep reaching for the dictionary too. It is also curiously unemotional when it comes to key/epic moments of the Crusades. I think Tyreman has confused being unbiased (which is appropriate given the topic)with being bland.
Also while the research is exhaustive and exhausting I do think the balance is a little odd, do we really need an exact itinerary of the preaching of the Second Crusade, Third Crusade and so on on to skim over things like what were the weapons and tactics of East versus West (this is hardly ever mentioned and never in any depth). Don't get me wrong the preaching is vital to the story but what made the crusades the crusades was the fighting and this does not get the same scrutiny as the liturgies going on in the Rhineland.
Saying that even an expert on the Crusades will find something new here, it's a very big mountain to climb (it took me months to get through and nobody can absorb it all after reading it just once) but the views from the top are spectacular.
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