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    THE BLACK ROOD: The Celtic Crusades Book II by Stephen R. Lawhead

    EOS, HarperCollins June 2000

    After the loss of his wife in childbirth, Duncan, son of Murdo, is filled with the urge to do something to make his life worthwhile. His dying uncle tells Duncan something about the holy lands and Duncan resolves to go on pilgrimage where he hopes to recover the true cross. He is captured by Turks, but captured too is the segment of the cross that went before the armies of Antioch. Somehow he must save his own life and the cross as well.

    Early in his trip from Scotland to the holy land, Duncan learns of deceit--a lesson that is often reinforced. The crusader states are as willing to war against other Christian nations as with the Turks and Arabs, and to turn to Seljuks as allies. Indeed, even the Knights Templar who help Duncan on his journey may even be working with the Fida'i or Assassins. Fortunately, Duncan is assisted by the spectre of a mysterious white-clad monk, by his faith, by the honor of his Arab and Turkish captors, and by Armenian and Coptic Christians despised by Roman and Greek Christians as well as the Moslems.

    THE BLACK ROOD is presented in first person narative (primarily in the form of a letter written by Duncan to his young daughter Cait) with a wrapper told by an early 20th century member of the Inner Circle. As a result, only a few of the characters were fully realized. The wrapper device did not directly impinge on the story and begs for further explanation--something that may occur in future novels in this series. (See more reviews of novels by Stephen Lawhead).

    Two Stars

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