Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade – Book Review

Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade by Nicole Galland

“Crossed” is a somewhat eccentric tale of the 4th Crusade, un utterly ludicrous adventure if ever there was one.  The primary narrator is a Briton (and is called ‘The Briton’ by the other characters) who inadvertantly falls in with the German knight Gregory of Mainz after failing to either extract revenge on a certain Englishman (perhaps King John, although we are never told) or kill himself.  Gregory decides that the perfect cure for attempted suicide is joining in on a Crusade to the Holy Land.  Others in Mainz’s household include his half brother Otto, Liliana the whore (and Otto’s great love), the ‘Richardim’ who are a grandfather and grandson both named Richard and Gregor’s servants, and eventually the Egyptian princess Jamila whom the Briton rescues from a lusty Venetian.

Although being taken on a pilgrammage against his will, the Briton has no great faith.  Beyond that, he is a very cynical do-gooder, all of which makes for some very interesting conflicts, particularly as the so-called pilgrim army begins to be manipulated by their leaders in the name of God and for the profit of a few.

It is quite clear that Galland had done her homework and that she knew events and customs inside and out while writing the book.  Still, I would almost hesitate to call the book historical fiction.  It almost seems to be more modern fiction set against an historical backdrop.  The Briton, in particular, has extremely modern sensibilities and voice.  Having recently read Sharon Kay Penman’s “Devil’s Brood,” set in England in roughly the same period, the difference in period feel is striking.  That being said, I still felt as if I learned much about this absurd ‘crusade’ of which I was quite ignorant.  Although the book dragged a bit in the middle, I thought this was a very good read overall, just don’t go into it expecting period feel, or you will be disappointed.

Oh!  I nearly forgot!  Galland included a LOVELY long authors note in the end discussing the fact and fictitiousness of the novel, which I adore.
Buy “Crossed” on Amazon.

9 comments to Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade – Book Review

  • I’ve had this book for almost a year now and I still haven’t read it. I’ve read Galland’s two other books, though, and really enjoyed them. If you liked this one, I’d recommend The Revenge of the Rose, which has more of a period feel as it’s roughly based on the Romance of the Rose and plays a lot with the concept of courtly love. Her first one is very much modern people in a medieval setting, although her author’s note explains that she was trying to get across the fact that medieval people were actually people like us.

    The crusades are totally ridiculous. The more you learn, the harder it is to believe that they actually happened, although they most certainly did.

  • The whole concept of the crusades is ridiculous in the first place, of course. At the very least, how do you expect to convert someone by killing them? The fourth crusade, though, the army fought other Christians exclusively; ridiculous even by the standards of a crusade.

    But you’re right, plenty of absurd things happened in the crusades, and in the name of God in general.

  • I’ve been wanting to read this book – I thought it sounded interesting and I know nothing about the 4th crusade (didn’t even realize there was one!). I think I’ll wait and get it from the library though.

  • This one’s been in one of my TBR piles (actually, the one in my car) for eons. I’m glad you reviewed it….gives me incentive to bump it up on the list.

  • I have nt heard about this book at all :O

    And I am not going to “look” for it 😉

  • Have you seen this book trailer/ interview with the author? I was blown away.

  • Sounds like an interesting read. I love the little fact/fiction diddys in the back of historical fiction books. :)

  • Hi there, this is Nicole Galland, the author of CROSSED. My publisher just sent me this URL, and I wanted to thank you for reviewing the book well; I also to address an issue you brought up which is of interest to me: the issue of “feeling period.” I actually TRY to write my books so that they feel like modern literature set a long time ago, so I was delighted that you had that reaction to it, although I realize that wasn’t what you were hoping to find.

    But I am always intrigued by what people mean when they talk about something “feeling” period. I doubt any of us could begin to relate to how people “really” were 800 years ago, so if something REALLY felt “period,” it would probably be a deeply alienating read. That’s my own humble opinion, but it’s why I don’t try to invent a “period” sensibility, especially when it comes to the psychological makeup of my characters. (That said, of course, I love losing myself in Dorothy Dunnett’s swashbuckling fiction as much as anyone.)

    Delighted to see that folks occasionally stumble across my video “Iraq and the Fourth Crusade” – please share it with all your friends and neighbors!

  • Nicole,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I didn’t dislike the modern feeling, I thought you actually made it work whereas most authors could not. I think you are correct, though, that REAL period feel would overwhelm modern readers. I suppose it is an intermediate sort of period feel that writers like Penman create. I’m looking forward to reading some of your other books and seeing how you bring the past into more modern feeling literature. Thank you again for the great read!