Lady Knight (Crystal Journals, Bk. 3)
Lady Knight (Crystal Journals, Bk. 3)
... Susan took stock of all that had happened in the last couple of days. Jason was so different...He made a great travelling companion. Susan liked his company. He was so deathly ill in their own time and although he seemed fine here, he had fainted. She wondered if she should use the crystal to try to take him home - to sickness and a dull life of sitting around...Susan knew that Jason didn't want to leave this time. He was enjoying the adventure, but Susan wanted to keep him safe...
Katerina. What a surprise she was...really brave and loyal too. She was in all this danger mainly to get a warning to her cousin. And fancy having a cousin who was an emperor...And tomorrow they would be in Cologne and Katerina could contact her grandmother and that would be that. Mission accomplished.
But that left Grefin and the straggly children who were planning to walk to Jerusalem...It was not right. It was dangerous. She could admire their passion and faith but they were dreadfully ill-equipped to accomplish what they expected... She would have liked to help them but she didn't know how.
In A Rare Gift, the first novel in Rosemary Ludlow's "Crystal" series, Susan, the time-travelling 10-year-old from Nanaimo, is told that she is to be a force on the planet for righting things that have gone wrong". In Lady Knight, third book of the series, Susan time-travels to 13th century Germany with her step-cousin, Jason, where she faces the three problems outlined in the above excerpt. Unfortunately, readers of this novel may be disappointed that she solves the least severe problem of the three, and that her magic crystal powers are not entirely adequate to "set wrong things right".
Just as Susan’s crystal begins to whisk her out of the 21st century, Jason grabs her arm and is transported with her. A cancer patient awaiting a new treatment, Jason feels better in the past world in which they find themselves. Readers press on with the story to learn why his health improved in this world of the distant past, and whether he will return to the 21st century. As the novel progresses, however, there is no explanation for his improved health and never any question of his remaining after Susan leaves. Although Jason's story ends on an upbeat note, readers may be disappointed that Susan and her crystal cannot cure him.
The child pilgrims the pair encounter on a woodland road are another area of reader interest. In her “Author's Note”, Ludlow explains that, in 1212, thousands of children from what are now France and Germany took to the roads on a mission to the Holy Land. The pope had commanded all Christian countries to send knights to free the Holy Land from the "infidel invaders" who occupied it, but these expeditions had failed. Then two leaders (Nicholas of Cologne in Germany and Stephen of Cloyes in France) envisioned that children would impress the occupiers with their innocence, passion and faith and move them to convert from Islam to Christianity. This misguided project, the Children's Crusade, ended unhappily. None of the children got to the Holy Land. Many died en route, others were enslaved, some survived by begging, and some were absorbed into the local population of Mediterranean cities.
While the Children's Crusade story certainly captures young readers' interest, it is more legend than history. In his 1977 study of the Children's Crusade, Peter Raedts, Professor of Medieval History at the Radboud University of Nijmegan, found only around twenty authoritative sources of information (references in manuscripts written within the forty years after 1212) and that these range from only a few sentences to half a page. Scholars think that several aspects of the era got bundled together into a story made up of more fiction than fact. Large numbers of wandering homeless, the traffic in child slaves, and widespread religiosity merged into a legend.
True or not, the Children's Crusade is a gripping story, replete with wrongs that need to be put right. The children's suffering on the road is vividly depicted, and, in reading about it, children of the present day will naturally expect Susan and her crystal to rescue them. They will be disappointed. While she shares food with them and nurses one of them, her magical powers are apparently incapable of remedying social disasters of this sort.
Actually, the child pilgrims are merely backdrop for a typical medieval drama involving power struggles among the nobility, knights on horseback and a beautiful woman of noble birth. Katerina and her page, Watt, find it useful to hide out among the wandering children while escaping from her enemies. Rivals from the Welf dynasty are trying to prevent the Hohenstaufen candidate, Frederick, King of Sicily, from being crowned Holy Roman Emperor. Thanks to Susan and her crystal, Katerina reaches her family in time to warn them of the threat to her cousin Frederick.
One of the appealing elements in A Rare Gift was Susan's use of her crystal for humanitarian reasons, that is, to help immigrant children. Pharoah's Tomb, the second volume in the series, and, especially Lady Knight are action-adventure novels involving Susan's assistance to elites involved in court politics. Susan's aid to Katerina and Frederick could be justified as doing good in the world in that Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, has gone down in history as a cultivated, educated ruler who expanded the empire's territories, supported the arts and sciences, and outlawed trial by ordeal. (See Wikipedia, Frederick II). This information, however, is outside the novel's time frame and isn't mentioned. Readers may wonder, as one of the characters does, if it really matters whether the Emperor is Hohenstaufen or Welf. The plight of vulnerable children is a more compelling problem, as in A Rare Gift, but one that Susan and her crystal apparently cannot remedy.
Historical novels have a dual purpose, to entertain, and to gently educate readers about a past era. Readers who haven't studied much history enjoy this genre if the plots connect in some way with their own lives. The rivalry between the Hohenstaufens and Welfs in 13th century Europe have little to do with the lives of Canadian eight to twelve-year-olds and is hardly a need-to-know topic. The Crusades are a potentially controversial subject better left to a more mature age group. I hope the next crystal novel takes Susan back to one of the many dramatic events in Canada's past which has shaped our present.
Ruth Latta's most recent young adult historical novel, Grace and the Secret Vault, is about a Canadian family during the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.