• This book won awards for Christian Historical Fiction and for Spiritual/Religious Fiction. What aspects of the book to you think impressed the judges most?


  • All the characters (except Reynald de Châtillon) are deeply devout ― whether Christian or Muslim. How does Balian’s faith differ from that of Saladin? From his fellow barons?

  • This book describes the slow slide of the Kingdom of Jerusalem toward catastrophic defeat. Can you identify the critical junctions in the course of history where the disastrous end could have been avoided by human action? Who and what could have prevented the disaster at Hattin?


  • Salah ad-Din is often portrayed in fiction and history books as a paragon of chivalry. Particularly in the 19th century he was seen as a “perfect, gentle hero.” Based on this novel do you agree?  Why or why not?

  • Compare and contrast Balian and Salah ad-Din. Now, compare and contrast Salah ad-Din and Baldwin IV and Salah ad-Din to Guy de Lusignan.

  • Balian's elder brother “Barry” is portrayed in this novel as a tragic hero.  What is/are his fatal flaw(s)? What aspects of his personality cause him to be the architect of his own destruction/unhappiness?


  • Sibling relations are an important theme and plot element in this novel. The siblings depicted include the Ibelin brothers (Balian, “Barry” and Henri), the Ayyubids Salah ad-Din and al-Adil, Aimery and Guy de Lusignan, King Baldwin and Sibylla, and the fictional Daniel and Michael.  Compare and contrast the relationships.

  • How would you characterize Balian and Maria’s marriage? Who is the stronger partner? Who benefits most from the relationship?

  • In the course of this novel, Isabella suffers some terrible experiences (all based on historical fact!). How do you think these experiences will affect the kind of queen she will one day be? (Isabella ruled 1190 – 1205)

  • What about her husband Humphrey? Would he make a good king? Why or why not?

  • Last but not least, there are many sub-plots in this novel (Sister Adela, Beth and Dawit, Godwn the armorer etc.) Why do you think the author included them? What do they add to the novel?
2nd Best Christian Historical Fiction 2016
Best Historical Fiction 2016
2nd Best Spiritual/Religious Fiction 2016
First in Category for Medieval Fiction 2016

Questions For Discussion:

Defender of Jerusalem

John E. Weaver Excellent Reads Award for Historical Fiction: Medieval 2017