LIONHEART’S SCRIBE

cover of Lionheart's Scribe by Karleen Bradford
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Summary ~ Reviews ~ Excerpt ~ Teachers’ Guide

  • Nominated for the 2002 Red Cedar Award

  • Canadian Children’s Book Centre Our Choice (starred) 2000

  • Nominated for the Silver Birch Award 2000

  • Shortlisted for the Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award 2001

  • Shortlisted for a 2000 TORGI Talking Book of the Year Award

SUMMARY

The Third Book of the Crusades

A lowly apprentice scribe, an orphan crippled by a club foot, 15-year-old Matthew thought he knew what life had in store for him: endless servitude. Of what consequence was it to him that King Richard the Lionheart of England and King Philip of France were soon to meet in his home city of Messina? What role could he possibly play in the Crusade to liberate the Holy City of Jerusalem from the Saracens?

But Matthew is drawn into the bloody and divisive war. His quick wits save a queen from imprisonment and a young Muslim girl from drowning at sea. And King Richard himself soon needs a scribe.

The first two books in this Crusades trilogy are the award-winning THERE WILL BE WOLVES and SHADOWS ON A SWORD.

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 1999

REVIEWS

The Toronto Star, Sunday, January 9, 2000

“In her bold portrayal of Matthew’s uncertain future and the ‘inconclusiveness’ of the crusade (Richard didn’t take Jerusalem but helped negotiate a three year truce between Christians and Muslims), Bradford grants this novel an honest lack of closure that resonates powerfully in our present. Bradford’s writing is direct and vigorous, evoking Mediterranean heat and light, ancient stone and misery...Detail about 12th century warfare, political events, religious ideology is all here, with colour, action, a thoughtful, critical voice and an appealing protagonist.”

Review by Deirdre Baker

Quill & Quire, October 1999

“Completing her trilogy about the Crusades with this volume, Karleen Bradford once again creates a gripping story that brings a distant time and place vividly alive for young readers today...Presented in the form of Matthew’s journal, the novel is skillful in integrating historical material into his own perspective and personal story...an absorbing tale about a complex and fascinating period.”

Review by Gwyneth Evans

Books in Canada, October 1999

“Bradford’s Crusade trilogy stunningly brings to life a world long lost. Lionheart’s Scribe is filled with historical information that will certainly spur readers to learn more about the events and the men and women who sacrificed themselves in those troubled times. The glories of the Crusades won’t have quite the sheen they used to when you put down Lionheart’s Scribe, but Bradford leaves young readers with new ideals, hopes, and dreams to replace the tarnished old ones.”

Review by Jeffrey Canton

Resource Links Magazine, December 1999

“The quality of life described in (Matthew’s) journal offers an excellent opportunity for comparison: the value of human life, political rights and freedoms...Bradford points out, through her character’s friendships and dialogues, the futility and destruction inherent in religious discrimination and related violence...descriptions of life at that time are quite vivid.”

Review by Donna K. Johnson Alden

Selected by the CBC Children’s Book Panel, November 1999

EXCERPT from LIONHEART’S SCRIBE

The 22nd day of September

He arrived today. Richard, King of England! I knew immediately when I saw him why men called him Lionheart. He is as glorious as the sun itself! I don’t think I have ever felt such a stirring within me as I did when I first laid eyes on him. Vulgrin can snort all he wants, but this is a king worthy of the name.

My quill is dashing ahead too quickly. I will collect myself and record everything as it happened. This has been such a day! I must write it all down so that I don’t forget one single detail of it. It will be something to read and relive when they are all gone and I have returned to my usual boring, everyday life.

When I awoke this morning the rumours were already buzzing and knifing around the town.

“A fleet is sailing toward our harbour!” I heard a man cry.

“An immense fleet!” shouted another. “The sky is billowing with sails!”

I was up and out of my hut in a trice. I knew it must be the King of England.

I hobbled as quickly as I could down to the harbour. It seemed like the whole town was on its way there, too. I was jostled and bumped and almost trodden upon. My foot began to pain me even more than usual and I cursed it with each step for slowing me down. Twice, slipping in the filth that ran beneath my feet, I fell. It only made me hurry more. I was afraid there would be such a crowd lining the shore by the time I got there that I wouldn’t see a thing.

I needn’t have worried. King Richard did not sail quietly in the way King Philip did.

There was a swarm of people lining the harbourside when I finally got there, but I am small for my fifteen years and agile, despite my foot. I slipped between them like an eel and forced my way through to the very front. Being spindle-shanked has its advantages. My elbows are sharp and boney enough to jab most effectively at ribs and fat bellies.

And what a sight I saw! On the horizon was a fleet of ships. I tried to count them but there were so many I had to give up. Sails filled the entrance to our harbour. Then I heard, from over the water, the shrill bugling of trumpets. it sent a shiver down my spine. I don’t know when I have ever been so excited. I stood planted to the spot and didn’t give way to anybody, no matter how hard they pushed.

As they came nearer I could see that most of them were warships painted in every possible colour. Even their sails were brilliantly hued and they shone against the blue sky. The railings of the ships seemed to be ringed with glittering fire. At first I couldn’t imagine what it could be, then I realized that the crusaders had hung their shields all around and they were reflecting back the sun.

The sea boiled as the oarsmen drove the ships on, then I saw what I had come to see.

The leading ship was a galley painted a crimson colour as red as blood. It flew King Richard’s pennant, three golden lions on a scarlet background. In the prow stood the king himself. He wore a cloak of gold that streamed back from his shoulders in the wind and his hair was just as golden. He seemed to be standing on a raised platform--I imagine so that all could see him. His legs were planted wide apart and he stood firmly, confident and steady in spite of the tossing deck beneath his feet.

I drank in the sight. Never have I seen anything more splendid. This is how a king should look! In that moment I felt such a longing surge up in me. It was stronger even than the strange feeling I had the other night when I sat by the harbour and watched the ships of the King of France rocking at their moorings. Perhaps it is all the talk of crusade, perhaps it is the sight and smell of these foreign ships, but I long to be on one of them. To be one of the men I see here every day who are going to sail far away to new countries, new adventures. To do my part in fighting to regain Jerusalem. To do God’s will.

But what nonsense I am writing. It is impossible and I know it.

The 23rd day of September

I could not write any more last night. My fingers were cramped and my quill too dull. I have sharpened it today though and I must continue. I know full well that I will never see such a sight again and I do not want to forget any of it.

Forty-six oars drove King Richard’s warship on. I counted. It sailed smoothly into the harbour. As it approached the pier, the great, square sail suddenly went limp. One last sweep of the ship’s oars brought it alongside, then the oars were raised skyward, all together. A command rang out and they lapped down, one by one, to lie in rows along the inside of the ship. It was so neatly done! During the whole time King Richard stood with his cloak billowing around him.

A great cheer went up from every person on the shore.

“He has a great enthusiasm for war, does England’s Richard,” I heard a man behind me say. I can well imagine that to be true.

As soon as his ship was tied up, the king leaped ashore without waiting for assistance of any kind. That seemed to upset the nobles and the other important men standing there waiting to receive him. They probably had a whole proper ceremony set up, but this king is obviously a man who does things his own way. Trumpets and clarions sounded, a little raggedly, as if they had been taken by surprise. Then King Philip strode forward out of the crowd. The two kings embraced and I was finally able to get a look at the King of France. He is as tall as King Richard, but I thought he had a sly sort of look about him. I would not trust him if I were the King of England.

More cheers rang out. I found I was cheering as loudly as everyone else. I shouted until my voice turned hoarse. In my fervour I threw my cap in the air. That was a mistake, as when it came down, some other hands grabbed it and I never saw it again. It was my only head covering and my ears will suffer for it when the weather turns cold.

I made my way back to Vulgrin’s stall, but couldn’t keep my mind on my work. I made stupid mistakes and blotted two skins. I think Vulgrin tired himself out beating me. But I could not think of anything other than the sight of Richard Lionheart, King of England, sailing into our harbour.