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The Siege of Acre, 1189–1191: Saladin, Richard the Lionheart and the Battle That Decided the Third Crusade, by John D. Hosler, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 2018, $30

When people think of the Crusades, it is the Third Crusade that usually springs to mind. Legend says Richard the Lionheart killed Saladin in one-on-one combat and single-handedly freed the Holy Land from the Saracen yoke. The truth, of course, was quite different. Even so, the Third Crusade was a memorable affair that featured a stellar cast of medieval celebrities, and the most important aspect of that campaign was the epic Siege of Acre.

In many ways that siege was to the Middle Ages what the Siege of Troy was to the ancient world. Both are remembered as epic encounters between East and West in which numerous European monarchs joined forces to besiege a walled city on the fringes of Asia. While not as protracted as the decade-long Trojan War, the struggle for Acre did last two years—far longer than most sieges. And the principal participants remain every bit as famous as those who fought over Troy—most notably Richard I of England, King Philip II of France and Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria.

Hosler’s The Siege of Acre represents the first modern historical study of the conflict. Utilizing medieval source material from both sides, he separates fact from legend to present a realistic view of the events and participants. Those interested in medieval history, particularly its military aspects, will find the truth every bit as fascinating.

—Robert Guttman