Novel Thoughts blog

The Crusades: Fact and Fiction

October 21, 2014 5:27 pm | 5 Comments

The Last CrusaderA few weeks ago I posted about how I discovered the riches of the novels of Louis de Wohl here. A few readers suggested that I read The Last Crusader, about Don Juan of Austria.

It was perfect timing, since I recently had a conversation with my mom about the Battle of Lepanto and found myself completely ignorant, knowing that most of my vague ideas about the Crusades have been formed by my public high school history classes.

I really enjoyed The Last Crusader like all the Louis de Wohl novels I’ve read, the history was detailed, fascinating, and recounted in an engaging manner. Although it isn’t about a saint – Don Juan of Austria was devout, but led a very colorful life – it was inspiring to learn about this brave man who changed history. The battle scenes were suspenseful, riveting, and powerful without being too gory. The love story was beautiful and showed what sacrificial love looks like. And, bonus…  I learned something about the Crusades and The Battle of Lepanto!

Then as I was reading the book, I saw this article on Facebook that I found interesting: What Is Your Middle Schooler Being Taught About the Crusades? This article struck me on a personal level because I can relate to what many have been taught about the “facts” of the Crusades. It was interesting to read fair, factual and balanced account of the Crusades and re-think about what I have been taught

The Last Crusader and this article made me want to learn more about the history of the Crusades. What is your favorite book – other than Ignatius Press’ edition of The Last Crusader, of course ;) – about the Crusades? Any suggestions for books that present an unbiased, factual account of the Crusades – the good and the bad? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Rose Trabbic

Rose Trabbic

Rose Trabbic is the Publicist at Ignatius Press. She works from home and lives in southwest Florida with her husband, Joseph, and their three young children.

Tags: crusades historical fiction Louis de Wohl The Last Crusader


  1. John Herreid

    October 21, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Jonathan Riley-Smith’s “What Were the Crusades?” is a good introduction to the historical crusades. I remember enjoying “Knight Crusader” by Ronald Welch a lot when I first read it as a teenager, but I cannot recall how historically accurate it was.

  2. October 21, 2014 at 6:26 pm

  3. October 21, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    The Fourth Crusade, by Donald Queller.This most controversial crusade has been brought up by the Orthodox as yet another reason east and west should maintain their division. The book does a fantastic job of painting the scene in both East and West, and successfully shows how unwieldy the scene was on the ground (or in the water, as it were). The Pope originally called for a crusade to win Egypt back to Christendom (a good call, for though the leadership was Arab Muslim, the people were still quite Egyptian Coptic, so flipping the country back to Christian wasn’t a fool’s errand). From then on, it was a nightmare of logistics; getting warring camps to kiss and get along for the duration of the crusade, to raise enough money to pay for the Venetian fleet, plus supplies once the crusade got assembled, how badly deadlines were missed, money was squandered, the rump fleet was sent off and had to fight like a band of brigands to feed itself while kept in limbo waiting for leadership to, well, show some leadership. Then Constantinople was in turmoil over a recent spate of warring emperors that you can’t keep straight without a scorecard. Then one claimant said he’d provision them if they fought for him, and despite the Pope’s order to not fight fellow Christians, they joined in, were refused payment for the job they did when they helped him win, and so went on to a rampage, wrecking Constantinople far more than he expected when he said “Take what you want from the city as your payment – I’m broke, myself.” . It is a tale of mission creep and good intentions gone awry that makes the wayward story of our Iraq campaign look like efficiency.

  4. October 22, 2014 at 12:20 am

    My favorite unbiased account is August Krey’s The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-Witnesses and Participants. I particularly love it because it contains a number of point-counter-point excerpts which show how the different factions among the Crusaders often viewed the same incident from opposing perspectives.

    Of course, it only covers the First Crusade, but that was the most important one and the only one that was ultimately victorious for any length of time.

  5. October 22, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Along with the rest of my high school English class, I was assigned de Wohl’s The Quiet Light that is a story about St. Thomas Aquinas. I remember it as being easy to read and that I loved it.

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