Original date of publication:
My edition: 1992 (Guild Press)
Why I decided to read: heard about this book through Amazon.com
How I acquired my copy: Amazon seller, February 2010
The Saracen Blade is the story of Pietro di Donati, son of a 13th-century Sicilian peasant. Born at almost the exact same moment as the Emperor Frederick, Pietro’s fate is loosely linked with his. The story is set against the backdrop of the crusades, and we even get to see some of the current events of the time, especially the Children’s Crusade and the Albigensian Crusade. Simon de Montfort even makes a cameo at one point, but be aware that he doesn't come across so well.
It’s a thick, dense novel, despite how short it is (there are even footnotes, which detracts from the flow of the story). It starts off very slowly, and it took me about fifty pages or so to get into the flow of the story. Pietro is a pretty dense, incomprehensible character, and he seems even callous at times (especially when he leaves his first wife, a wet noodle I just couldn't care for, either). I loved the historical backdrop, but I wasn’t quite as attached to Pietro as I wanted to be. He just didn’t leap off the page for me, and his friendship with the Emperor stretched credibility.
I loved the historical setting, since Frank Yerby describes everything so well; but his prose is, as I’ve said, dense and hard to follow at times; but at others, he tends to get a bit over-dramatic. I enjoyed the love story between Pietro and Iolanthe, but it mostly got lost in the amount of historical details that Yerby gives his reader.