Review: SIEGE, by Richard Foreman, Sharpe Books, ISBN: 9798607084271

This is a great little book. Richard Foreman is a writer who is as happy in Roman Britain as he is in Medieval Antioch, as this story shows. The only thing that matters to Richard is that there are deeds of derring do aplenty!

The story begins during the siege of Antioch, the “Siege” of the title. This was the First Crusade, when tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands joined the pilgrimage espoused by Pope Urban and his cohort of preachers like Peter the Hermit. They told their audiences to go join the armies intending to release Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the rule of the Muslims.

Not that the Muslims had only just taken Jerusalem: they had been there for many years. But Urban had a desire to demonstrate the power of the Roman Catholic faith, in comparison with the debauched, depraved Church of the eastern Roman empire based in Constantinople. So, when the Emperor of Byzantium wrote asking for help to eject invaders in a part of his empire, expecting a small force of knights, the Christians massed under the banner of a Holy War against the Muslims who dared take Christian lands. And their focus soon took in Jerusalem as their target. 

But on the way, arguments amongst the leaders led to serious disputes. At Antioch, Bohemond of Taranto and Raymond of Toulouse were camped together with the pilgrim army, but they distrusted and detested each other. Their rivalry was based on jealousy and greed.

So much for the background.

The book begins with a fight between Edward Kemp, Bohemond’s champion, and Raymond’s nephew, Girard of Mortain. Edward wins, and earns Girard’s undying hatred as a result.

It is not a good augury for the Crusade. Urban II had expected that his armies would sweep aside all unbelievers on the way to Jerusalem, but they had been bogged down in the siege of Antioch for months now. The army was fragmenting, with desertions growing among the peasant classes involved, and now, as news reached the Christians of the approach of a muslim army to lift the siege and put to the sword all the Christian upstarts who sought to take their conquests, the atmosphere in the camp grew frantic. Desertion was pointless, with escape blocked by the new army. But if they remain with the siege, they will be crushed between the Antiochian forces and the new muslim forces.

So there is a need to break into the city, and that swiftly. 

The story, in essence, is the rivalry between Bohemond’s and Raymond’s camps, the subterfuge employed to break the siege, and the bloody battles involved.

Richard Foreman has a real skill at depicting men at arms and their fighting. He has a terse style that is utterly in keeping with the subject matter and the players he writes about. This is a fast-paced action story that is a natural successor to the 39 Steps and Sharpe series itself!

A great, fun read. Highly recommended!

One Response to “Review: SIEGE, by Richard Foreman, Sharpe Books, ISBN: 9798607084271”
  1. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    A review…


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