ANGELS ON CRUSADE
NovelBooks, Oct 2003
New Edition Issue, Dec 2005 from Cerridwen Press
Reviewed by Joy
Thirteenth Century Europe
One minute Isobel is a carefree student dreaming about her lover Ė while driving a car. The next minute she is an accidental murderer. A child is dead. In only a few days she is condemned, with nothing to look forward to for the rest of her life except regrets and the prison library.
The Time Correction Institute offers her a way out. In the era of Isobelís birth, time travel has been mastered, but not the changes in history which sometimes result. Isobel, convict, is expendable. If she cannot talk young Jean de Bourbon-Dampierre out of joining the Eighth Crusade, so that he lives long enough to sire a dynasty, her life will be erased and someone else will be sent. In any case, she will never see her own time again.
It isnít as easy as they told her it would be. Talking to Jean doesnít work. But Isobel hasnít been erased, so she must be doing something right by joining the Crusade along with him. The Eighth Crusade is the one which turned back at Tunis with great loss of life. Reading about the Crusade in the prison library, Isobel hadnít realized how terrible it was. The reality is a shock.
Thirteenth century Europeans normally lived in squalor, compared to our standards. When traveling, it was worse. They took it for granted, but to Isobel, coming from almost two millennia into their future, it is a version of hell. She knows the filth they are living in is the cause of the sickness killing so many people, but she canít reveal the source of her knowledge. She must hide any knowledge of what is to come, or risk throwing time off track. Also, she knows the Inquisition is on the rise. Being accused of witchcraft could kill her.
Author Samantha Winston's books are outstanding for their vivid characters and fast pace. Isobelís perceptions and emotions were so clear to me as I read, that I could almost see a web of connections between my nerve system and hers. When Isobel realizes what special punishment her assignment was designed to inflict on her, I had tears in my eyes. In spite of all, there are people who bring goodness to Isobelís new life. Chief among them are Jean, who boyishly wants her to marry him, and Charles, the youngster who becomes their servant. Winston describes the closeness of their three-way friendship in such a way that, even as readers, we rely on their mutual dependence.
Winstonís best-known books are her award-nominated series about Alexander the Great, written under her own name of Jennifer Macaire. TIME FOR ALEXANDER and especially HEROES IN THE DUST are pervaded by a sly sense of the absurd. In contrast, ANGELS ON CRUSADE takes itself seriously. It has a message to deliver, about the Crusades and other religious developments which were about to take place. The humor that sneaks out through the love stories of her other two books is replaced in ANGELS ON CRUSADE with longing and passionate need.
Because Winstonís time-traveling heroines feel such culture shock, entering historical worlds from the remote future, we are led to wonder at things which the people born in those times rarely even notice. Readers take note, ANGELS ON CRUSADE is not the place to look for pageantry. Thirteenth century France has come down to earth.
Sep 2003 Review, adapted Dec 2005
[Note added Dec 2004: ANGELS ON CRUSADE has been selected as an EPPIE
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