A Scottish knight's adventurous journey to the Holy Land. Knight Murdo undertakes it to find a wicked lord who dispossessed his family of their lands. After the deed the lord took off, joining a crusade to gain the Holy Land for Christianity. By the author of Byzantium.
Stephen Lawhead is best known for his "Pendragon Cycle" of Arthurian fantasies. His previous novel Byzantium moved him into historical rather than mythological fiction; The Iron Lance confirms this change. It is the story of the First Crusade told by a youth from the Orkneys, a group of islands off the north coast of Scotland. At 14 Murdo Ranulfson is too young to go on a crusade. But when he and his mother are thrown off their own land by soldiers of Prince Sigurd of Norway, who has claimed the Orkneys, Murdo travels to the Holy Land to fetch back his father and brothers to reclaim their land. He witnesses at first hand the horrors of the Crusade, particularly what Lawhead calls "the rape of Jerusalem". In common with Lawhead's earlier works there is a strong Christian element to the story, but here the emphasis is on the spirituality of the Celtic monks Célé Dé contrasting with the venality of the Catholic Church of the time. The main story is framed in the late-19th century narrative of a secret religious order descended from the monks, and from Murdo. This is a powerful and well-told story. Lawhead brilliantly captures better than most American writers what feels like the true essence of medieval Britain and Europe. --David V. Barrett