The Land Beyond The Sea by Sharon Penman

Set in the mid to late 12th century, The Land Beyond the Sea is a historical novel charting the reign of the leper king, Baldwin IV, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s defence against Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria.  While these historical figures may be unfamiliar to most, what follows is a fascinating tapestry of big battles, political intrigue, tragedy and romance. The crux of the story is King Baldwin himself. Believably complex and melancholy, Penman fills him with humanity; so much so that you can’t help but root for him. Perhaps Penman’s greatest achievement is convincing her readership that Baldwin was a good king in spite of his illness, and may even have been a great one had leprosy not darkened his door at all. If criticism can be had, it is only that the author’s attention to detail, along with her huge roster of characters can at times injure the story’s momentum, and leave things less than riveting. This is a big book; if however, you prefer your historical novels as accurate as possible, you will consider the work well-researched, and savour its length.

Submitted by Daniel