My review of The Crusades by Thomas Asbridge ran today at PopMatters.
This thick book covers the full two-hundred plus year span of the crusades, and while its comprehensiveness is admirable, it’s lacking in some respects. There’s lots of descriptive, expository writing on the battles, figures, and issues that drove these conflicts, but not a lot of the kind of colorful, imaginative prose that can truly bring a subject to life. That’s one of the drawbacks of writing such an all-inclusive book. There are so many details to cram in, it’s not easy to linger a bit and conjure up a rich, immersive atmosphere. The one exception is Asbridge’s treatment of Saladin, a significant enough figure to warrant an in-depth, quasi-biographical treatment. That said, as long as you know what you’re in for, The Crusades is a great way to become acquainted with what is a very complex history, where religion, politics, and culture inform the motivations of those involved in ways that contemporary readers may find surprising.