1172. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, also known as ‘Outremer’ – the land beyond the sea. Outremer was a young realm, one baptized in blood when the men of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in 1099. Those crusaders who stayed had to adapt to an utterly new world, a land of blazing heat and exotic customs and enemies who were also neighbours.
Balian d’Ibelin had long enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect with Saladin. But Saladin was set upon taking Jerusalem by storm, seeing it as a blood debt, retribution for the massacre in 1099. Defeating Saladin would have been a challenge for any king, but while Baldwin IV was intelligent, educated, charismatic, courageous, and dedicated to the welfare and protection of his people, he was also doomed by his affliction with leprosy. However, he fought his disease as fiercely as he fought the Saracens, and when he learned that Saladin was planning to invade Outremer, he won a remarkable victory over a much larger Saracen army at Montisgard in 1177; Saladin himself barely escaped capture. Balian took part in that battle, too, for he was loyal to his young, dying king. Eventually, Balian’s finest hour would come, for he convinced Saladin to accept a peaceful surrender . . .
Filled with drama and battle, tragedy and romance, Sharon Penman’s latest novel tells the epic story of a clash of cultures that continues to resonate today.