A stand alone SF book.

Publication year: 1990
Format: print
Page count: 340
Publisher: Baen

This book has multiple POV characters and two main time lines. One of the time lines is centered into 12th century, during the Third Crusade, and the second one is set in the 21st century in a futuristic US. Additionally, the main POV character in the future story line has dreams/hallucinations about being various people in other times.

The chapters with a heading of “Sura” and a quotations from Omar Khayyam, focus on the 12th century. Thomas Amnet is a Knight of the Temple and the Keeper of the Stone for the Templars. The Stone gives its keeper magical powers and near immortality. Amnet is an advisor to the Grand Master of the Order and so he’s also in the middle of intrigue between the various Christian factions. Amnet is known to be a wizard and the Stone can give him flashes into the future. However, recently when Amnet looks into the Stone, a man’s face prevents Amnet from using it properly. Amnet fears that this is a rival wizard and that they will have to fight.

Raynald the Chatillon, Prince of Antioch, insults a group of important Muslims and as a consequence, their military leader Saladin declares jihad against Raynald. The new King of Jerusalem decides to defend Raynald. Meanwhile, the order of the Assassins are killing knights but decide not to side with Saladin. One of the assassins, Hasan, looks young but is in fact a over a hundred years old and a wizard but not connected to the Stone.

In the 21st century, Tom Gurden is a jazz musician and in trouble. He feels like several men have been following him and they have saved his life a few times. However, now they have tried to kill him. Gurden calls to an on-line psychiatric unit, Eliza 212, and tells his story to her. He has also had a couple of dreams where he was a man in various places in time. In the first dream, Gurden is a poor scholar in Robespierre’s France. Later, Gurden’s old lover returns and a man tries to kill Gurden.

The plot is a rather complicated mystery. There are several POV characters in the chapters set in the 12th century but in the 21st century Gurden is pretty much the only POV character; there’s only one short scene from another POV.

The story lines don’t merge until the very end, but a reader is likely to guess what’s going on. Amnet is a loyal Knight who sometimes warns his Master about future decisions but will follow him in the end. He guards the Stone jealously from even his half-blooded apprentice.

Gurden turns out to be an expert martial artist in addition to a masterful musician. He’s become careful and almost paranoid in recent months. Sandy is his former lover who comes back to him at the start of the book

The book starts with a scene where Sandy orders a specific glass made. Glasses similar to that one feature in Guren’s dreams; the dream always starts when he hurts his hand on a glass. The people he is in the dreams are quite different from each other and don’t seem to have much in common. Yet, he doesn’t gain any knowledge or powers from the glass.

The 12th century chapters have most characters in them. Most of them are Christian knights who aren’t romanticized but shown as scheming men who are cruel and greedy at times. We also get a few brief glimpses from Saladin’s POV. As far as I can tell, the story line is historically accurate (except for the magic and Amnet, of course) but condensed for brevity.

I enjoyed the historical chapters more than the future ones. The future characters felt a bit bland while Gurden felt a bit too conveniently competent. I would have wanted to know just who Sandy was.

It’s a nice quick read but not as good as Amber.

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