The lovely 13th century-inspired cover of Helena Schrader’s Rebels Against Tyranny suggests the promise of a well-wrought yarn set in the Middle Ages. Indeed, the author delivers a robust and irresistible tale brimming with historical accuracy.
Schrader’s story takes place in the early 1200s, just beyond the major Crusades in what is sometimes referred to as the “bloodless Crusade.” It focuses on a cast of characters in Cyprus, other areas of the Levant in and around Jerusalem, and Sicily.
Dashing Balian d’Ibelin is the oldest son and heir of upstanding John d’Ibelin, Lord of Beirut and a key protector of teenaged Henry, King of Cyprus. Fiendish Amaury Barlais has a grievance with the Ibelin family and consistently schemes against them, even worming his way into the graces of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II Hohenstaufen, who has plans to conquer the Holy Land and selfish reasons for opposing the Ibelins. Eventually a clash is inevitable.
The story surrounds the efforts of the Ibelins and their compatriots to oppose the despotic emperor Frederick and his followers in a classic good versus evil tale. Not all is swordplay, however, as the story also follows the budding romance between noted ladies’ man Balian and the brave Lady Eschiva de Montbéliard.
Although the cast of characters is mammoth, Shchrader provides a thorough cast list and meticulous family tree. Readers will particularly appreciate Eschiva’s three-dimensional characterization, as women in similar narratives tend to be little more than cardboard props. In fact, the author brings the qualities of each main character to life: the wide-eyed innocence of young Henry; the cringe-worthy activities of Barlais. Together, the dialogue, plot, and descriptive language make this a compulsive page-turner.
Schrader has done diligent research, and it shows in her historical accuracy, welcome glossary of medieval terms, and extensive set of historical notes. Those who enjoy stories of the period—and even readers with only a passing interest in the era—will relish this tale.
Also available as an ebook.