The Jerusalem Trilogy followed the lives of Balian d'Ibelin and Maria Comnena through two decades of history from 1171 to the end of the Third Crusade in 1192. This was a crucial period, which saw the almost complete destruction of the crusader presence in the Middle East. It covered the dramatic Christian victory over Saladin in 1177, and the more devastating -- and unnecessary -- defeat of the Franks at the Battle of Hattin ten years later. Finally, in the third book of the trilogy, the dramatic defense of Tyre, the last Christian outpost in the Holy Land, and finally the course of the Third Crusade is described.
These events were momentous in their age. The shock of the annihilation of the Christian army at Hattin allegedly killed a pope and set in motion a massive military response: the Third Crusade. The Third Crusade, in turn, attracted the wealthiest and most powerful of Western monarchs -- Friedrich Barbarossa, Philip Augustus, and Richard the Lionheart. As a result, the period of history covered in the second two volumes of the Jerusalem Trilogy was well recorded by contemporaries had has been the focus of historical interest ever since. There are a wealth of primary and secondary sources that I could turn to for inspiration, guidance, plot and characters.
With the end of the crusade, the density and quality of contemporary sources and modern histories drops dramatically. Yet, life went on even after the momentous, eye-catching events ended. Furthermore, as readers will have noted, neither Balian nor Maria were dead.
The Last Crusader Kingdom is a novel set in the period following the Third Crusade. It is populated with familiar characters from that trilogy -- Balian and Maria, Aimery de Lusignan and his wife Eschiva, Queen Isabella and her 3rd husband Henri de Champagne, and more -- but it is not a sequel. It is a stand-alone novel.
The Last Crusader Kingdom attempts to explain two historical developments that historians skip over, ignore or admit ignorance about. First, the establishment of a Latin kingdom on the island of Cyprus under the Lusignans. Second, the rise of the Ibelin family to the most powerful, indeed dominant, noble family of Outremer. It is, in short, about historical events of significance, but largely lost to modern understanding because of an absence of sources -- primary or secondary -- that deal with this interlude in detail. In my next two entries, I will describe in greater detail the historical evidence available and the revisionist thesis pursued in this novel.
The Last Crusader Kingdom is also a "bridge" between the Jerusalem Trilogy and my next novels, which will describe the remarkable resistance of the barons of Outremer (led by the Ibelins) against the despotism of the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich II Hohenstaufen.
For those of you who missed The Jerusalem Trilogy, here are the links: