Questions For Discussion:

The Last Crusader Kingdom

The novel as novel:

  • Who is the principal hero of this novel? Why do you say so?

  • There are two heroines. Which do you find most attractive? Which most interesting? Why?

  • Eschiva is not your typical historical fiction heroine. She is not “feisty.” She does not try to break the rules of medieval society. She does not try to do a man’s job or be superwoman. Does that make the novel stronger or weaker?

  • Who was your favorite character (major or minor!) and why?

  • John d’Ibelin grows up in the course of this book. Can you pin-point the key factors or events that shape him? What kind of adult do you think he will be after experiencing these events in his youth?

  • What role do Anne, Joscelyn, and Ayyub play in the novel? Why were they included in the book?

  • What was your favorite scene in the novel and why?

The novel as political commentary:

  • The book opens with a Frankish atrocity against the peaceful Greek population, yet the heroes of the novel are nearly all Franks. Why do you think the author chose to open with this scene?

  • Brother Zotikos has good reason to hate the Franks and want revenge against them. When/how does he go wrong? When (if ever) did you lose sympathy for him?

  • There are many “innocent victims” in this novel. Can you list them all? What do they have in common? Could the same policies help them all or is there inherent conflict in assisting one group or another?

  • Compare and contrast Guy, Aimery and Balian’s approaches to government. Who is most successful? Is this chance or method?

  • At the end of Chapter 15, Balian d’Ibelin tells the hostage Humphrey de Toron that he has been freed, but Toron refuses to go. In the ensuing scene, Balian realizes that he has been unjust to Toron for judging him on the basis of what he should have been rather than what he is. Do we still do this with our leaders today? Is it fair? Why or why not?

 Special for those Familiar with Ethiopia 2016-2017:

  • Can you see parallels between the events in the novel and what was happening in Ethiopia in the period 2016-2017?
  • Can you identify characters who have similar characteristics to leading Ethiopian political figures? (Hint 1: the novel was written before the emergence of Lemma and Abiy. Hint 2: question includes reference to diaspora figures.)
  • Throughout this novel, Cyprus (like Ethiopia a year ago) teeters on the brink of catastrophe ― torn between anarchy and tyranny. Is the solution for Cyprus similar to what ultimately happened in Ethiopia? How or how not?