Historical Novels: The Crusades


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The First Crusade
Crusades of the Twelfth Century in the Middle East
Crusades of the Thirteenth Century and Later in the Middle East
The Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisition in France and Spain
Mysteries Set During the Crusades

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Crusaders

History recognizes nine distinct crusades, religious wars waged by Christian Europe against peoples they considered to be heretics or infidels. The various crusades against the Muslim rulers of Jerusalem during late eleventh through the thirteenth centuries are usually what spring to mind when people talk of the Crusades. But there was also a crusade against the Cathars, a Christian sect in southern France (the Albigensian Crusade), and crusades against Mongols and Slavs (though I have yet to find any historical novels about these latter). In 1492 the last Moslems in Spain were driven out in a violent attack akin to a crusade. Most but not all crusades were officially declared by the pope.

Some series novels extend across several time periods; the entire series will appear under the appropriate category for the first novel in the series.


Novels of the First Crusade

Jerusalem was and is considered a holy city by three faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Part of the Byzantine Empire for four centuries, it became officially Christian when Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity. Jews were then banned from the city until A.D. 638 when Muslim Arabs conquered it and declared both Jews and Christians free to live and practice their religions alongside Muslims.

In the eleventh century, the Pope and other influential Christians in Europe, weary of widespread violence within Europe and goaded by reports of Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem being attacked by by Muslims, preached that it was an outrage for the holiest city in Christendom to be ruled by Muslims. In 1096, Pope Urban II called for European armies to join a crusade to return Jerusalem to Christian rule. Tens of thousands answered his call, beginning centuries of warfare against Muslims and violent pogroms against European Jews. The First Crusaders established the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, which lasted until 1291, although Saladin took Jerusalem itself in 1187. For more information, see the Wikipedia article about the First Crusade.


Simon Acland, The Waste Land (2010), about a monk who becomes a knight and fights in the First Crusade, told from the perspective of a group of Oxford professors who discover his autobiographical manuscript; self-published. Review

Stewart Binns, Lionheart (2013), about Richard the Lionheart as he joins the Crusades during the last years of his father's reign.

Paul Block and Robert Vaughan, Armor of God (2009), a religious thriller about a priest who is the present-day "Keeper of the Sign" and a scholar living during the First Crusade who was the first "Keeper"; Christian message.

Evan S. Connell, Deus lo Volt!: Chronicle of the Crusades (2000), about the First and Second Crusades from the perspective of the chaplain of King Louis IX of France.

Alfred Duggan, Knight with Armour (1946), about an Englishman in the First Crusade; Duggan's first novel.

Alfred Duggan, Count Bohemond (1964), about Bohemond I, elder son of the Norman warlord who conquered the southern Italian province of Apulia, and his rise to power during the First Crusade. Review by Carla Nayland

Laverne Gay, Wine of Satan (1949), a romantic novel about Bohemond and his fictional lover.


Tom Harper, The Mosaic of Shadows (2004), about a man hired to find an assassin targeting the Emperor of Byzantium on the eve of the First Crusade; #1 in the Demetrios Askiates series.

Tom Harper, Knights of the Cross (2005), about a man charged with finding out who murdered a Norman knight during the Siege of Antioch in 1098; #2 in the Demetrios Askiates series.

Tom Harper, Siege of Heaven (2006), about a man who longs to return to home and family but must first travel to Jerusalem with the armies of the First Crusade; #3 in the Demetrios Askiates series.


Robert E. Howard, The Lord of Samarcand (2005 collection of stories originally published in the 1920s and 30s), short stories about crusader knights.

Stephen Lawhead, The Iron Lance, historical fantasy about Scots participating in the Crusades; #1 in the Celtic Crusades series.

Stephen Lawhead, The Black Rood, historical fantasy about Scots participating in the Crusades in 1132; #2 in the Celtic Crusades series.

Stephen Lawhead, The Mystic Rose, historical fantasy about Scots participating in the Crusades; #3 in the Celtic Crusades series.


Jack Ludlow, Son of Blood (2012), about Bohemund, the son of Robert Guiscard, who goes to the Holy Land to fight in the First Crusade; #1 in the Crusades trilogy (follows the Conquest trilogy, listed on the Medieval Normans page).

Jack Ludlow, Soldier of Crusade (2012), about Bohemond and his nephew Tancred during the First Crusade; #2 in the Crusades trilogy.

Jack Ludlow, Prince of Legend (2013), about Bohemond and his nephew Tancred during the First Crusade; #3 in the Crusades trilogy.


F. Van Wyck Mason, Silver Leopard: A Novel of the First Crusade (1955).

James Patterson and Andrew Gross, The Jester (2003), a thriller about a man who joins the Crusades in 1096 to escape oppression in his home village, and finds that his troubles are only beginning.

Zoé Oldenbourg, The Heirs of the Kingdom, a literary novel about the French during the First Crusade and beyond.

Orville Richolson, The Rosewood Chalice: A Novel of the First Crusade (2002), about the tensions between Christians and Muslims that led to the First Crusade; self-published.

Stephen Rivelle, A Booke of Days, about a twelfth century French knight's disillusioning experience in the First Crusade.

Thorvald Steen, Constantinople (1999; not available in English translation), about Sigurd I, a twelfth century king of Norway and the first European king to lead a Crusade to end Moslem rule in Jerusalem.

Jack Whyte, Knights of the Black and White (2006), about the formation of the Templar Knights after the First Crusade; #1 in the Templar trilogy.

Jack Whyte, Standard of Honor (2007), about a Templar Knight who follows Richard the Lionheart into the Third Crusade, despite his misgivings; #2 in the Templar trilogy.

Jack Whyte, Order in Chaos (2009), about a Templar Knight disillusioned by his experiences as a crusader who decides to dedicate his life to God; #3 in the Templar trilogy.




Crusades of the Twelfth Century

The Knights Templar was a religious order of knights founded after the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade. Its original purpose was to protect Christian travelers making religious pilgrimages to Jerusalem. They soon became a wealthy and powerful order. Their mission expanded to warfare, and Templar knights played important roles in a number of Christian victories during the Crusades. After the Crusades ended, the order's power and wealth attracted suspicion, and Templars were accused of heresy. The order was dissolved in 1312 by Pope Clement.

Many novels have been set during the Crusades against Jerusalem. King Richard I of England was an enthusiastic Crusader; novels that portray him primarily as a Crusader appear in this section. During the nineteenth century, Crusader knights were viewed as heroic figures, but most authors now recognize that the Crusades were brutal wars of aggression in which not only innocent Muslims but also many Middle Eastern Christians were slaughtered, and that knights were often motivated as much by their desire for status and plunder as by piety. For novels about the Crusades primarily from the perspective of Muslims, see the Middle East page.


Elizabeth Chadwick, The Falcons of Montabard (2003), about a Norman knight who becomes a Crusader to restore his honor after he is caught with the king's mistress in 1120.

Judith Fox, Scraping Through Stone (2002), about a woman who disguises herself as a boy and joins the Crusades to escape an arranged marriage, then experiences the Siege of Acre; Australian publication now out of print and hard to find.

Seth I. Friedman, The Pilgrim (2012), about an orphaned farm boy who joins the Third Crusade under King Richard; self-published.

Jan Guillou, The Road to Jerusalem (1998), about a young Swede whose life is up-ended twice before it becomes clear that his destiny is to become a Knight Templar; #1 in the Crusades trilogy. Review

Jan Guillou, The Templar Knight (1999), about a Swede obligated to serve as a Templar Knight in Palestine, where he proves both a skilled warrior and a friend to Saracens; #2 in the Crusades trilogy. Review

Jan Guillou, The Birth of the Kingdom (2001; also titled The Kingdom at the End of the Road), about a Swedish Knight Templar who returns home to develop a centralized military force in his own country; #3 in the Crusades trilogy.

Nan Hawthorne, Beloved Pilgrim (2011), about a young German noblewoman who borrows her brother's armor so she can participate in the Crusade of 1101; self-published.

David Hillier, Fire and Shadow (1996), about a woman who, when her parents are murdered just before she is to marry, decides to follow a trail that may lead to their killers and travels to the Holy Land amid the Third Crusade in 1191.

Cecelia Holland, Jerusalem (1996), about a Templar knight in Jerusalem in 1187, at the end of the Crusader Kingdom.

Cecelia Holland, The King’s Witch (2011), about a woman healer who accompanies Richard the Lionheart, his sister Johanna and his bride Berengaria on Crusade. Review

John Jakes, King's Crusader (1977; a revision of the novel originally published in 1962 as Sir Scoundrel), an adventure novel about the minstrel Blondel and his search for his patron and comrade Richard the Lionheart.

Pamela Kaufman, The Shield of Three Lions (1984), a romantic novel about a girl who dresses as a boy and wins the love of Richard the Lionheart; #1 in the Lady Alix series.

Pamela Kaufman, Banners of Gold (1986), about a woman who attracted King Richard the Lionheart while she was disguised as a boy in Jerusalem; #2 in the Lady Alix series.

Pamela Kaufman, The Prince of Poison (2006), a beautiful noblewoman returns from the Crusades, fleeing the wrath of Prince John, who believes her to be pregnant with his royal brother's bastard; #3 in the Lady Alix series.

Joseph Lessard, Hospitaller: A Tale of the Unknown Knight in the Third Crusade (2008), about a knight who, during a period when his faith is severely tested, experiences a vision of an angel who tells him to go on Crusade; self-published.

Geraldine McCaughrean, Lovesong: A Novel of Courtly Love (1996), about a troubadour during the time of the Crusades.

Annette Motley, My Lady's Crusade (1977), about a woman who travels to the Holy Land with Eleanor of Aquitaine to find her crusader husband.

Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (1819), a romantic novel about an aristocratic young knight who returns from the Third Crusade and is disinherited for falling in love with his father's ward.

Sir Walter Scott, The Talisman (1825), about a knight in the Third Crusade who is sent to negotiate a peace treaty with the Saracens; sequel to The Betrothed.


Graham Shelby, Knights of Dark Renown (1969), about conflicts between Christians and Saracens in Palestine during the period after the Second Crusade when the Crusaders had established the Kingdom of Jerusalem; #1 in the Knights of Dark Renown series.

Graham Shelby, The Kings of Vain Intent (1970), set in the Kingdom of Jerusalem after the Second Crusade; #2 in the Knights of Dark Renown series.

Graham Shelby, The Devil Is Loose (1974), about King Richard the Lionheart; #3 in the Knights of Dark Renown series.

Graham Shelby, The Wolf at the Door (1975), about King John of England; #4 in the Knights of Dark Renown series.

Graham Shelby, The Edge of the Blade (1986), set during the Third Crusade.


Judith Tarr, Queen of Swords (1997), about Melisende, the Frankish princess who was heir to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem during the Third Crusade in the twelfth century.


Crusades of the Thirteenth Century and Later in the Middle East

The Fourth Crusade, from 1202-1204, featured warfare over the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. Crusaders passing through on their way to Jerusalem expected the city to support their mission by provisioning their massive armies, while Constantinople's rulers, with some justification, suspected the leaders of the Crusades of coveting their realm. In 1203, when the Crusaders' army arrived at Constantinople, one of their goals was to topple the reigning Byzantine Emperor, who had deposed his brother in 1195, and restore the brother to the throne. The effort got out of hand, ending in the sack of the city. The armies of the Fourth Crusade never reached their original goal of Jerusalem.

Legends developed around stories of a 1212 Children's Crusade in which a boy is supposed to have led thousands of children on a peaceful pilgrimage with the goal of coverting Muslims in Jerusalem to Christianity. According to one version of the story, he led the children to the Mediterranean shore in the belief that the sea would part to let them through, as in the Biblical story of Exodus. Of course, it did not, and the children perished. Most scholars now believe the Children's Crusade never occurred.


Bryce Courtenay, Sylvia (2006), based on the legend of the Children's Crusade.

Peter Darman, The Sword Brothers (2013), about a soldier who joins an order of warrior monks in the Baltic during the first years of the thirteenth century; #1 in the Crusader Chronicles series; self-published.

Patrick Dorsey, God's Forge (2013), about a disillusioned Templar Knight in Paris who leads his fellow knights in an escape when royal forces seize their fortress.

Alfred Duggan, Lord Geoffrey's Fancy (1962), about thirteenth century French crusaders in Greece.

Michael Alexander Eisner, The Crusader (2001), about a young Spanish nobleman who returns from the Seventh Crusade in an apparent state of possession and the Inquisitor charged with plumbing the depths of his soul; set during the late 13th century.

Nicole Galland, Crossed (2005), about the misadventures of a Welsh minstrel, a German knight, a prostitute and a mysterious princess during the Fourth Crusade. Review

Cecelia Holland, Antichrist: A Novel of the Emperor Frederick II, about Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor from 1220-1250, and his involvement in the Crusades.

Harold Lamb, The Grand Cham (1922), an adventure story about a man's revenge on the Turkish lord who crippled him, set during the Crusades.

Harold Lamb, Durandal , about a Frankish knight who vows vengeance after his company is betrayed by its allies during a battle at Antioch. Review

Michael Mott, The Blind Cross (1969), about a French boy searching for his brother who joined the Children's Crusade.

Nabil Saleh, Outremer (1999), about a young Cathar from Milan who travels to the Crusader kingdom to avenge his family by killing Philip of Montfort, whose father massacred Cathars in Languedoc.

Robert Shea, The Saracen: Land of the Infidel (1989), about two rival warriors during the thirteenth century Crusades; #1 in the Saracen series.

Robert Shea, The Saracen: The Holy War (1989), about two rival warriors during the thirteenth century Crusades; #2 in the Saracen series.

William Watson, Beltran in Exile (1979; also titled The Last of the Templars), a realistic novel about a Templar Knight and his experiences during the decline and persecution of the Templar Order after the final defeat of the Crusaders with the fall of Acre in 1291.

Frank Yerby, The Saracen Blade (1952), about the orphaned son of an blacksmith who grows up in Palermo, Sicily, where he is befriended by Frederick II, and rises to wealth and power during the Crusades.

Robyn Young, Brethren (2006), about a young Knight Templar and a Muslim warrior who fight on opposite sides during the Crusades of the thirteenth century; #1 in the Brethren trilogy.

Robyn Young, Crusade (2007), about a Templar Knight who wishes for peace in 1274 Acre, one of the last Crusader strongholds in Palestine; #2 in the Brethren trilogy.

Robyn Young, The Fall of the Templars (2008; titled Requiem in the U.K.), about a thirteenth century Templar Knight who questions whether to remain in the order in 1295, after the Crusades have ended in failure; #3 in the Brethren trilogy.


The Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisition in France and Spain

From the early eighth century, when Islamic Berbers from Africa crossed into Spain and conquered portions of the country, through the late fifteenth century, part of southern Spain was under Muslim rule. Crusades of the eleventh century targeted Spanish cities like Toledo, which was reconquered in 1085 by Christian armies. The last Muslim state in Spain was the Emirate of Grenada, which survived until the Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella expelled its Moorish king in January of 1492.

The Cathars (sometimes referred to as Albigensians after the city of Albi in Spain) were a group of Christians whose beliefs differed from those of the the Church in Rome. In 1208, the pope declared a Crusade against the Cathars, initiating decades of warfare and persecution in which many Cathars were massacred and their beliefs and practices were essentially wiped out.


Tariq Ali, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (1992), about the forced conversion of Spanish Muslims to Christianity during the late fourteenth century after the fall of Grenada.

Derek Armstrong, The Last Troubadour (2007), an adventure story about a French troubadour and the invention of Tarot cards during the thirteenth century Inquisition against the Cathars.

Derek Armstrong, The Last Quest (2008), an adventure story about a French troubadour and the invention of Tarot cards during the thirteenth century Inquisition against the Cathars; sequel to The Last Troubadour.

Ron Barber, The Blood Red Cross (2011), about a knight from Aquitaine who becomes a Knight Templar in the years before the Templar Order in France is forced to dissolve; self-published.

Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book (2008), about a rare illuminated manuscript created in Moorish Spain and its travels through five centuries of Muslim history in Europe. Review

Edward Burman, The Image of Our Lord (1990), a thriller about the rivalry of the French King Philip the Fair and the Inquisitor Jacques Fournier (later Pope Benedict XII) in 1313 for a holy relic belonging to the Knights Templar.

Sophy Burnham, The Treasure of Montségur (2002), about a Cathar woman charged with protecting a Cathar treasure as the Inquisition tries to stamp out the Cathars and their beliefs.

Elizabeth Chadwick, Daughters of the Grail (1993; originally titled Children of Destiny), about a descendant of Mary Magdalene in thirteenth century France who is condemned by the Catholic Church because of her supernatural gift of healing.

Hannah Closs, High Are the Mountains (1945), about the persecution of the Cathars in thirteenth century France; #1 in the Tarn trilogy.

Hannah Closs, Deep Are the Valleys (1960), about the persecution of the Cathars in thirteenth century France; #2 in the Tarn trilogy.

Hannah Closs, The Silent Tarn (1963), about the persecution of the Cathars in thirteenth century France; #3 in the Tarn trilogy.

Susann Cokal, Mirabilis (2001), about the pregnant daughter of an executed heretic in fourteenth century France.

Charmaine Craig, The Good Men (2002), a literary novel about the Cathars, a heretical sect in fourteenth century France.

Glen Craney, The Fire and the Light: A Novel of the Cathars and the Lost Teachings of Christ (2008), about Esclarmonde de Foix, a leader of the Cathars.

Colin Falconer, Stigmata (2012), about a French knight in 1205 whose only hope for his dying son seems to be a young Cathar woman marked by stigmata, wounds similar to those Jesus suffered on the cross.

Guy Gavriel Kay, A Song for Arbonne (1992), a fantasy novel set in an imaginary world inspired by southern France during the Albigensian Crusade.

Kate Mosse, Labyrinth (2006), historical fantasy about a mysterious link between a modern woman and a woman in Southern France during a crusade against the Cathars.

Zoé Oldenbourg, The World Is Not Enough (English translation 1948), a literary novel set in twelfth century France during the Crusades; #1 in a trilogy.

Zoé Oldenbourg, The Cornerstone (English translation 1955), a literary novel set in thirteenth century France; #2 in a trilogy; sequel to The World is Not Enough.

Zoé Oldenbourg, Destiny of Fire (English translation 1961), a literary novel set in thirteenth century France during the crusades against the Cathars; #3 in a trilogy; sequel to The World is Not Enough and The Cornerstone.

Zoé Oldenbourg, Cities of the Flesh: or, The story of Roger de Montbrun (English translation 1961), about a fictional Catholic knight and his love for a Cathar woman during the Inquisition's crusades against the Cathars.

Vanitha Sankaran, Watermark (2010), about a mute young albino woman, the daughter of a paper-maker in Narbonne, France, and her search for self-expression during the inquisition against the Cathars. Review

Robert Shea, All Things Are Lights (1986), about a troubadour amid the Albigensian Crusade; also available free online from BobShea.net.

Elena Maria Vidal, The Night's Dark Shade (2009), about a seventeen-year-old heiress who goes to live with relatives in the French Pyrenees after she is orphaned and discovers they expect her to marry a Cathar heretic and live as a celibate; self-published.


Mysteries Set During the Crusades

Maureen Ash, The Alehouse Murders (2007), about a Templar knight recovering from wounds suffered during the Crusades charged with investigating what happened to the four dead people found in an alehouse; #1 in the Templar Knight mystery series.

Maureen Ash, Death of a Squire (2008), about a Templar knight charged with investigating the murder of a generally disliked squire; #2 in the Templar Knight mystery series.

Maureen Ash, Murder for Christ's Mass (2009), about a Templar knight who investigates the death of a clerk who worked for the mint in the city of Lincoln; #3 in the Templar Knight mystery series.

Maureen Ash, A Plague of Poison (2009), about a Templar knight who investigates the death of a squire who expired after eating cake; #4 in the Templar Knight mystery series.

Maureen Ash, Shroud of Dishonour (2010), about a Templar knight who investigates the murder of a prostitute whose body was found in a Templar chapel; #5 in the Templar Knight mystery series.

Maureen Ash, A Deadly Penance (2011), about a Templar Knight in England who investigates the case of a murdered servant who had been having an affair with a married woman; #6 in the Templar Knight mystery series.


Simon Beaufort, Murder in the Holy City (1998), about a knight in the twelfth-century Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem who is assigned to investigate after he discovers the body of a murdered knight in the room of a baker; #1 in the Sir Geoffrey Mappestone mystery series.

Simon Beaufort, A Head for Poisoning (1999), about a Crusader knight who returns to his family's castle in Wales in 1101, where he must act as King Henry I's spy to investigate possible treason; #2 in the Sir Geoffrey Mappestone mystery series.

Simon Beaufort, The Bishops Brood (2003), about a Crusader knight who, about to set off on a return voyage to the Holy Land, is detained in Southampton by a threat to his life; #3 in the Sir Geoffrey Mappestone mystery series.

Simon Beaufort, The King's Spies (2003), about a Crusader knight assigned to investigate a treasonous plot; #4 in the Sir Geoffrey Mappestone mystery series.

Simon Beaufort, The Coiners' Quarrel (2004), about a Crusader knight detained in England by the king to investigate a quarrel between two coiners, each of whom accuses the other of devaluing the currency; #5 in the Sir Geoffrey Mappestone mystery series.

Simon Beaufort, Deadly Inheritance (2009), about a former Crusader knight who inherits his family's castle from his greatly disliked brother and must find out who murdered him before he suffers the same fate; #6 in the Sir Geoffrey Mappestone mystery series.

Simon Beaufort, The Bloodstained Throne (2010), about a former Crusader knight shipwrecked on his way back to the Holy Land who discovers his fellow passengers are plotting to overthrow the king; #7 in the Sir Geoffrey Mappestone mystery series.

Simon Beaufort, A Dead Man's Secret (2010), about a former Crusader knight sent on a mysterious mission to Wales for the king, which soon proves deadly; #8 in the Sir Geoffrey Mappestone mystery series.


Paul Doherty, The Templar (2007), about the founding of the Order of Knights Templar during the First Crusade (may not be a mystery novel, but is the first in what appears to be a new mystery series); #1 in the Templars series.

Paul Doherty, The Templar Magician (2009), a mystery about two Englishmen who must find out who assassinated Raymond, Count of Tripoli, as war rages between King Stephen and Empress Matilda's son Henry in 1152; #2 in the Templars series.


Sylvian Hamilton, The Bone-Pedlar (2000), about a former crusader making his living as a dealer in holy relics who agrees to help solve the mystery around a dead man and his mysterious icon; #1 in the Sir Richard Straccan mystery series

Sylvian Hamilton, The Pendragon Banner (2001), about a former crusader making his living as a dealer in holy relics who must defend himself from a charge of murder; #2 in the Sir Richard Straccan mystery series.

Sylvian Hamilton, The Gleemaiden (2004), about a former crusader making his living as a dealer in holy relics who encounters a murderous conspiracy when he goes on a journey as penance for the sin of sacrilege; #3 in the Sir Richard Straccan mystery series.


Pip Vaughan-Hughes, Relics (2006), a thriller about a novice monk framed for murder; #1 in the Petroc series.

Pip Vaughan-Hughes, The Vault of Bones (2007), a thriller about a former novice monk who has partnered with a seller of holy relics; #2 in the Petroc series.

Pip Vaughan-Hughes, Painted in Blood (2008), a thriller about a seller of holy relics whose partner goes to a Cathar area in France in the midst of the Albigensian Crusade; #3 in the Petroc series.

Pip Vaughan-Hughes, The Fools' Crusade (2010), about a former novice monk from Devon, now a rich, married banker in Venice, who goes to Egypt with the Seventh Crusade in 1250; #4 in the Petroc series.


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