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Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite
The Emperor Strikes Back: Frederick II's War Against His Vassals by Helena P. Schrader is a historical novel with a strong setting and compelling characters. Jerusalem is under the control of the Christians, thanks to the successful campaign of Emperor Frederick II. However, the barons are not happy with the Emperor's dictatorial approach to power and the common man holds him in great contempt. The Sultan is resolved to drive the Christians away after the ten-year-truce. The Emperor is determined to destroy the family that has inspired a sense of independence in the people: the Ibelins. But the Ibelins are a resilient family that has learned to survive the rough times and to build strong allies. Can they withstand the wrath of the Emperor with the full support he has?
Bloodshed, political machinations, conspiracy, and subterfuge are some of the characteristic features that accompany the action to drive the plot forward in The Emperor Strikes Back: Frederick II's War Against His Vassals. Helena P. Schrader doesn't just craft a beautiful story but also reinvents a historical period that quickly feels real to her readers. The exquisite prose combines with strong plot points to create a story that is page-turning. The political and historical as well as religious elements of the setting are written with a unique approach to detail and a rare sense of imagery. It is fast-paced and delightful, a real treat for fans of historical novels. I enjoyed the strong writing, the great pacing, the in-depth character treatment, and the overall entertainment value of the narrative.