In Distant Lands
A Short History of the Crusades
Author Lars Brownworth
Narrated by Joe Barrett
Publication date July 11, 2017
Running time 8 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
I have never read anything directly about the crusades. Whenever I encountered them, they were the backstory or window dressing of another story. For example the legend of Robin Hood centers around Richard the Lionheart being held for ransom when returning from the third crusade. I knew there were several crusades but not exactly how many. I knew some of the main characters like Richard, Eleanor of Aquitaine when she was Queen of France, Saladin and Suleiman but I did not really know how they all fit together. I knew there was seriously messed up stuff involved like the Children’s Crusade and the crusaders sacking Constantinople, their own ally. In Distant Lands A Short History of the Crusades helped fill all those gaps in my knowledge of an incredibly complex subject that continues to have relevance even today.
Mr. Brownworth begins the book by explaining which characters go with which crusade. I found that extremely helpful. So many of the names are not familiar, like Alexius I Comnenus, who was the emperor of Byzantium and whose request for help set the first crusade in motion. The book then lays out the logical order of events that created the need for the Byzantine emperor to seek help from the Roman Catholic Pope. He also then shows how events spiraled out of control until there was absolutely no hope of stopping the disaster that followed.
The book does a wonderful job of balancing events and people. The significance of the events, what led up to them and what their consequences were are all told in a very readable fashion. At the same time the people involved in the events are discussed in a way that gives them depth and life. Nothing happens in a vacuum and the author does a great job of illustrating the people who created the events.
Joe Barrett did an excellent job narrating In Distant Lands. His voice is very pleasant to listen to. He enunciates clearly and the production quality is excellent. He never stumbles on any of the foreign words whether French or Arabic. I would not hesitate to choose another book he narrates.
In Distant Lands has kindled an interest for me in this period of history. I have two other books picked out for my next trip into this time period (God’s Wolf by Jeffrey Lee and The Templars by Dan Jones). I will also be looking into more of Mr. Brownworth’s work. I found In Distant Lands to be very accessible while not oversimplifying a complex subject.