It's some twenty years since we last met Pagan Kidrouk, once squire to a Knight Templar and now Archdeacon of Carcassone. When his scribe Julien is taken ill, Pagan nabs Isidor, parish clerk of Merioc, in his place. Initially stunned and more than a little intimidated, it doesn't take bookish Isidore long to realise his good fiortune - here is a man who also loves books and intellectual pursuits, for all that he is intimidating.
Unfortunately for Isidore, it's 1209 - the year that the Church decided to crusade south, toward Isidore's country, and root out the Cathar heretics. The crusaders are something less than picky about who actually gets killed, provided it's all int he name of religious might and right, and Isidore soon discovers more about the way the world works than he imagined possible.
In the first three books of the Pagan Kidrouk series Pagan's was the voice heard; in Pagan's Scribe the roles are reversed - Pagan is the one intially feared then revered by a younger, intelligent and intellectual man. The key themes of the series - intellect versus instinct, piety versus realism, honour, faith and love - are clearly but subtly articulated, and the historical detail is closely woven into the plot wihtout any of the "I researched this" hallmarks of lesser writers.
Pagan's Scribe concludes with an epilogue that is both satisfying and sad, both because it described the death of Pagan but also because of the revelation of the length of time encompassed by this wave of the crusades. Anyone convinced that military might in the name of religious righteousness is a good would do well to read this engaging and deeply rewarding series. It's so neatly wound up that I was surprised, but also pleased, to learn that there's a fifth book in the series, which I'll undoubtably read any day now. - Alex