During these periods, there were some very impressive warriors who were involved in the crusades and the fight by the Egyptians, with names such as Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, and others. Among the others were the Marmaluk dynasty from Egypt, with many of their Sultans seeing it as their duty to follow in the footsteps of Saladin and remove these foreign fighters from these lands. And in the midst of all this were the people of these cities, forts and of the overall area, who wanted to make a living and were forever in danger. For anybody who has done some amount of historical readings, the Crusades were a very bloody time period. Overall, war itself involved huge casualties, and not only of the soldiers, but also of the citizens who were in grave danger of being killed, or at the minimum, looted or sent into slavery. But these battles during the Crusades had religious sanction for the blood-letting, and it was not uncommon for a victorious army to kill not only the opposing army but even all citizens of the conquered city.
This book is set in such a time period. It takes some real historical characters, and some fictional, tracking their lives during a specific period of the Crusades. And of course, it also makes extensive use of a historical society, the Knights Templar, who became incredibly powerful and were answerable only to the pope. On the one side, you have a young boy, William Campbell, who has been admitted to the Knights as a young sergeant, hoping to become a Knight here. His father is already in the Holy Lands along with the Knights. On the other side is the young slave, Baybars, who became a commander to the various Sultans; he was extremely ambitious and when the Sultan would not give him what he wanted, he was ready to get rid of the Sultan and finally take the power to himself.
And in the middle of all this is a book. This is where the story takes a meander, since the Book is about an inner council of the Knights Templar, and in a land where the very sniff of heresy could get you burnt at the stake, the Book talks in terms of a Grail Romance, and could very easily be used by a rival to destroy the Knights. And along with their power, the Knights had a number of enemies, since royal dynasties typically did not like power centers in their kingdom that reported only to the Pope (and also, the Knights would have lent money to the King and were not above demanding their money, acting as an equal to the King). So, there are multiple people hunting for this book, including the future king of England (Edward, known in history as Edward Longshanks) and the action slowly moves to the Holy Land where Baybars is being ruthless in his desire to rid the whole place of the corrupting influence of the Franks, and vows to defeat all the Crusaders.
The book is well researched and moves between the different characters, taking a short time period of history that was clearly significant (the rise and rule of Baybars was significant). The book also does not shirk from showing the brutality of war, although it does tend to depict Baybars as ruthless and cruel, while he is seen as a hero in the entire Middle East. And of course, the Crusaders were equally likely to be ruthless and murdering entire cities when they took them. Somehow, the end is a bit of a let down since the story becomes flat near the end. The end is an interesting anti-climax situation, but overall, the book was interesting.