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.