Lionheart's Scribe


205 pages
Contains Maps
ISBN 0-00-648511-1
DDC jC813'.54




Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


The concluding volume of Bradford’s “Crusades” trilogy is narrated
by Matthew, an orphaned, crippled apprentice scribe from Messina,
Sicily, who, through a chain of believable circumstances, becomes scribe
to King Richard of England (a.k.a. “Lionheart”), during the Third
Crusade to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims. Matthew keeps a diary,
which begins on September 1, 1190, just before King Richard’s arrival
on Sicily, and concludes on September 2, 1192, following the signing of
a truce giving Christian pilgrims access to Jerusalem.

While a good read, Lionheart’s Scribe lacks the reader-engaging drama
found in the earlier two volumes—There Will Be Wolves (1992) and
Shadows on the Sword (1996)—principally because the diary format means
that Matthew is recording events after they have happened and therefore
the emotions are being recalled rather than being freshly experienced.
As in the previous books, the teen narrator struggles with personal
problems that have wide implications. The question of what is historical
truth confronts Matthew as he records King Richard’s versions of
various events while recognizing that the king is omitting the
atrocities committed by the victors. In wartime, the “enemy” is
portrayed as faceless “bad guys,” but Matthew’s friendship with
Rashid, a Muslim warrior, causes the young scribe to query the
morality/correctness of the Christian Crusaders’ cause. Matthew’s
interactions with both Rashid and Yusra, a young Muslim girl whom
Matthew had saved from drowning, also raise questions about whether the
god worshipped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims is the same deity.

While Lionheart’s Scribe stands on its own as an independent read,
Bradford offers readers of the second book, Shadows on the Sword, an
opportunity for recognition. Recommended.


Bradford, Karleen., “Lionheart's Scribe,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,