Tuesday, September 7, 2021

#BookReview: The Leper King by Scott R. Rezer

Crusade Era Historical

The Magdalen Cycle #1

Author Links

King of Jherusalem and Defender of the Holy Sepulcher, Baldwin walks the sword's edge between the quarreling barons of his Court and the jihad of Islam. Between the two, however, a sinister presence lurks--a cabal of heretics who will stop at nothing to see its dark designs come to fruition. Baldwin is young, courageous, and a leper. In the midst of mounting political tensions and war, a beautiful woman befriends the lonely sick king--a woman who claims she is an immortal saint.
I owe my reading of THE LEPER KING to authors Autumn Bardot and Glen Craney. Autumn didn’t recommend the book; I’m not sure she’s even aware it exists, but a casual comment she gave on Kingdom of Heaven (2005) sent me in search of a novel featuring Baldwin IV. The internet quickly suggested Penman’s THE LAND BEYOND THE SEA and Schrader’s BALIAN D’IBELIN: KNIGHT OF JERUSALEM, but it was Glen’s review of Scott R. Rezer that caught my eye. I hadn’t been looking for historical fantasy, but what’s life without whimsy?

Despite its genre, Rezer’s work shouldn’t be assumed light reading. The author may have draped the realities of Baldwin’s life in a thoroughly entertaining shroud of heretical conspiracy and religious mysticism, but he doesn’t ignore the political and spiritual dialogues of the age. Imaginative though it is, THE LEPER KING is a multicultural crusade era novel that comprehensively depicts the tumultuous undercurrents and bitter rivalries of Baldwin’s kingdom.  

I felt Rezer crafted intriguing portraits of Mary, Agnes, Simon, Saladin, and Sybilla, but his approach to Baldwin blew me away. Where he might have offered readers a piteous invalid or a tragic saint, Rezer created a charmingly dynamic young man. A young ruler, plagued by doubt but driven to understand and fulfill his spiritual purpose despite the circumstances of his disease. Razer obviously respects Baldwin’s legacy, but the manner in which he humanized his legendary protagonist took this book to a level I wasn’t expecting when I picked it up. 

Rezer possesses a poetic command of language and I delighted in the cadence of his prose. I discovered this volume by accident, but I loved every minute I spent with THE LEPER KING and am eager to read the second installment of the series. Due to particular plot points, I wouldn’t recommend THE LEPER KING to readers with no taste for the fantastic, but I wouldn’t hesitate to offer this piece to anyone with an open mind and an appreciation for creative storytelling. 

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: August 30, 2021

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