In his previous book, “Acre’s Bastard”, Wayne Turmel introduced us to Lucca Le Pou. His ten year old protagonist is a street-smart scapegrace who knows the back alleys of his home city of Acre like the back of his hand. Lucca has already survived more than most adults, including the disastrous defeat of the Christian forces at the Battle of Hattin. But as much as he hopes to go back to his old life, that wish is not to be realized.
“Acre’s Orphan” opens in the aftermath of Hattin. Acre, now virtually defenseless, is awash with fear as it prepares to surrender to the Muslim armies of Sal ad-Din. Lucca discovers that a mysterious outsider is stirring up resentment for the defeat at Hattin among the residents of Acre. Lucca and his mentor, the former knight and occasional spy Brother Marco, soon realize that this is part of an effort to discredit a powerful Christian nobleman. Brother Marco dispatches Lucca to Tyre, where the nobleman in questions currently resides, to warn him of the threat. Lucca, who has only been beyond the walls of Acre once before, must travel through leagues of war-torn countryside to accomplish this. His only companions on this trip are a Druze girl only slightly older than him, a leprous nun hoping for refuge from the Muslims, and a Hospitaller knight of dubious reputation.
“Acre’s Bastard” was an exploration of the seamy side of the Crusades, and this second installment of the series takes the reader into the shifting political and military landscapes of the Holy Lands in the 12th Century. Lucca must navigate his way through the uncertainty around him while both doing his best to keep his companions safe, and to accomplish the task given to him by Brother Marco. As he does this, the scared boy he was begins to melt away, and the young man people will follow begins to emerge.
I enjoyed reading “Acre’s Orphan” enough that I finished it about three days. I found Lucca Le Pou to be an engaging character, as are the supporting characters. Their interactions feel like those of real people, with none of the stilted set-piece scenes some stories fall into. The landscape they move through is believable enough that you feel you could almost trace their path. The plotting is good, and the pacing keeps you turning the page. In other words, it’s a good read and well worth your time.
In his closing notes to “Acre’s Orphan”, Wayne Turmel tells us “Acre’s Bastard” was originally to be the only book about Lucca. That changed when his daughter indicated she wanted to read more of his character’s adventures. I am glad she changed his mind, because I too am looking forward to reading more of Lucca’s story. I don’t know, but I suspect others will look forward to further installments as well.