Blog Tour: Crusader’s Path, By Mary Ann Bernal

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

From the sweeping hills of Argences to the port city of Cologne overlooking the River Rhine, Etienne and Avielle find themselves drawn by the need for redemption against the backdrop of the First Crusade

Understanding the Mindset of the Times
Religion played a pivotal role in daily life. There would be no salvation without the Church. To avoid eternal damnation in Hell, one must confess one’s sins, satisfy a given penance, and receive absolution by a priest. Many a penitent embarked on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, seeking the Lord’s forgiveness.
Until the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the region, the Islamic State had no problems with Christians and Jews living among their people, nor did they interfere with the pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. The revenue boosted the Islamic economy, after all.

The Class System

Affluent people have a better standard of living than their inferior counterparts. The nobility craved power and wealth at the expense of the common people. Famine, contagion, and violence, affected everyone, but it was the peasant class who suffered the most. However, their unshakeable belief in salvation promised a better life in God’s kingdom.
One must not forget the Eleventh Century was a violent era, without an organized governing body. Members of the nobility argued among themselves, brother fighting against brother to sit on a throne. Conquerors subjected the conquered to tyrannical rule. Mercenaries wreaked havoc upon the countryside. Something needed to be done, and the Lord’s people looked towards the Church for assistance.

The Latin West

Pope Urban II succeeded Pope Gregory VII, whose clashes with the mighty Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV, created the installation of the Antipope, Clement III. Pope Urban, unable to sit on the Chair of St. Peter in Rome, traveled the countryside, fulfilling papal duties while in exile, taking it upon himself to implement his predecessor’s changes. Pope Urban convened a synod at Clermont in the Duchy of Aquitaine to discuss Cluniac reforms.

The Greek East

Byzantine Emperor Alexios I had been fighting the Seljuk Turks for several years. He sent envoys to Pope Urban, requesting his aid to push back the Seljuk invaders and reclaim the city of Nicaea.
thumbnail 2%2BPope Urban II. preaching the First Crusade in the Market place of Clermont %2528See page 119%2529 p115 - Blog Tour: Crusader's Path, By Mary Ann Bernal


The Great Announcement

The charismatic Pope Urban, an astute politician and skilled orator, piqued curiosity when foretelling of a “great announcement,” given on the very last day of the synod before everyone returned home. Notices were nailed to church doors, and priests spoke of the upcoming speech from the pulpit. No one knew what the man of God would say. Expectations were high. The Pope spoke for God, and soon they would hear the Lord’s words.
While standing on an elevated platform, Pope Urban’s spellbinding sermon called for a Holy War to free the Holy Land from the infidel. Such wickedness must not prevail. His cunning words vilified the Seljuk Turks, repeating exaggerated tales of Muslim barbarism against the Christian Pilgrims in the Holy Land.
Pope Urban appealed to the crowd to take up the Cross as Soldiers of Christ. Christ’s warriors were to regain control of the Holy Sepulcher and return Christian rule over Jerusalem. The Vicar of Christ offered the atonement for their sins, whether they died on the journey or in battle. Salvation was guaranteed. They would spend eternity in Paradise.
The frenzied multitude, caught up in the emotional hype with adrenalin pumping, rose to the occasion. Someone shouted Deus Vult (God wills it), immortalizing a rallying cry that has transcended the ages.
thumbnail 3%2BSiege of Jerusalem 1099 2 - Blog Tour: Crusader's Path, By Mary Ann Bernal


Pope Urban sought to reunite the Latin West and Greek East, whose division stemmed during the ebbing days of the Roman Empire. By channeling the aggressive thirst for fighting against a common enemy, Pope Urban curbed the pillaging of the European countryside. However, a successful campaign would strengthen the Papacy, heightening dominance over the rule of kings.
Alexios I, the Byzantine Emperor, never expected such a vast Army to invade his lands. Alexios wanted an elite force of knights, a few hundred men, to fight with his warriors against the Seljuk Turks. Alexios demanded fealty from the Princes, which was honored after the fall of Nicaea. But the Princes retained control of the remaining cities, including Antioch, refuting their sworn oaths of allegiance.
The nobility took up the Cross for the honor and prestige of fighting for Christ, elevating their influence, commanding awe and respect. The promise of great riches beckoned the second and third sons of wealthy nobles who would not receive an inheritance under the current laws. These knights had no reason to remain in Europe, intent on plunder and glory. Aside from material gains, they needed salvation and what better way to satisfy bloodlust without fearing eternal damnation. The Sixth Commandment was ignored, killing the infidel because they believed “God wills it.”
Thousands of men, women, families, and entire villages took vows to join the campaign to save their souls. If one did not have the financial means, Pope Urban declared Divine Mercy would provide. The earthly journey was their ticket to Heaven. Unfortunately, Peter the Hermit led the Peasants’ Army. He was a spiritual leader, not a military one. Constant bickering, lack of provisions, and little leadership had the pilgrims pillaging the land, committing atrocities along the way, blackening a cause the Soldiers of Christ believed to be just.

Mary Ann Bernal

# # #
About the Author

MaryAnn%2BBernal - Blog Tour: Crusader's Path, By Mary Ann BernalMary Ann Bernal attended Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, where she received a degree in Business Administration. Her literary aspirations were ultimately realized when the first book of The Briton and the Dane novels was published in 2009. In addition to writing historical fiction, Mary Ann has also authored a collection of contemporary short stories in the Scribbler Tales series and a science fiction/fantasy novel entitled Planetary Wars Rise of an Empire. Mary Ann is a passionate supporter of the United States military, having been involved with letter-writing campaigns and other support programs since Operation Desert Storm. She has appeared on The Morning Blend television show hosted by KMTV, the CBS television affiliate in Omaha, and was interviewed by the Omaha World-Herald for her volunteer work. She has been a featured author on various reader blogs and promotional sites. Mary Ann currently resides in Elkhorn, Nebraska. Find out more at her website and find her on Twitter @BritonandDane

find the cost of your paper

Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.