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The Emperor Strikes Back: Frederick II’s War against his Vassals

The Emperor Strikes Back: Frederick II’s War against his Vassals

By: Helena P. Schrader
Publisher: Wheatmark
Publication Date: July 19, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-62787-699-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 18, 2019

For those readers out there who love history, I will assume you have already thrown yourself into this series of fantastic books. However, for those who love suspense, romance, family drama, and more, it should also be stated that these books not only cover a myriad of knights, eras, and crusades, but also genres. Even people who like that “soap opera” effect of families at war, members of those families sleeping in the “wrong” beds, etc., will fall head-over-heels for Helena Schrader’s books

As one who was lucky enough to get in on this from the beginning, this book picks up where Rebels Against Tyranny left off. The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, has set himself back where he feels he belongs: in the royal seat of power. He has also established, once again, Christian control of Jerusalem. You see, Frederick and Pope Gregory signed an agreement which lifted Frederick’s excommunication. But even with the love supposedly flowing between them and their grand display of friendship before the citizens, the battle between them still wages.

Now, it’s important to note that, in 1231, Frederick sent a huge military force to the Holy Land in order to battle. But not against the Saracens; Frederick was waging war against his own people. His target at this time was John Ibelin, the Lord of Beirut, whom the Emperor had a beef with (to put it mildly). He wanted John to surrender Beirut, but John wanted the Emperor to bring him into the High Courts so his supposed malfeasance could be judged by his peers. The Emperor wanted no due process, just the full surrender. Thus…wars began, crusades were taken on, and history became even more colorful.

It takes not a page before we enter (my personal favorite place) the library at the Benedictine Monastery of Monte Cassino. It is there that the Master of the Teutonic Knights, Herman von Salza, waits for Frederick to show. Herman is a man who wants nothing more than to live out the rest of his days in this grand library and be left alone. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. Herman is told by the Emperor of a secret plan. Herman could tell everyone and foil this plan, but Frederick also tells him that with this idea comes the promise that Pope Gregory is going to transfer the assets of the allegedly corrupt Sword Brothers to the Teutonic Knights - which makes Herman quite happy.

The Ibelins have their own surprise when a young child shows up in front of John, and is told that his eldest son, Balian, is the child’s father. This is news that could literally destroy the family. And as everyone watches the ten-year truce with Frederick run out—which carries with it the claim that the Holy City will be purified and the Christians will be driven out for good—the Ibelins have to worry about gaining allies in order to stop Frederick.

The vast egos at work in this book (and the preceding ones) are glorious to see played out on paper, and in your own mind. You can almost see the hatred in the eyes of both the common people and the barons, as they pelt the Emperor and hold him in contempt for his malicious ways. And although you may think the plot is confusing, or the cast of characters is too big to remember, don’t think that way. The author is brilliant in her writing and never lets you get confused. She is also gracious enough to not only offer up cast menus, but also maps of the towns, buildings, battles and everything you need to know from the 13th century. This allows you to sit back and simply enjoy the incredible journey that Helena Schrader brings to life in full-color.

Quill says: The author continues to offer the most exciting historical series that mesmerizes the reader.

For more information on The Emperor Strikes Back, please visit the author's website at:

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