Part of the Celtic Crusades series, The Iron Lance begins with people so far apart from each other in time and space that it immediately becomes interesting to find out how in the heck they are all going to come together, and in what way.
We have a member of a secret society in 1899, Murdo, youngest son of a Laird in the Orkney Islands, and Alexius Comnenus, Emperor of All Christendom, God's Co-Regent on Earth. And no, the latter is not the Pope. Pope Urban is a player in this game of "take the city," but he never makes an appearance in the story.
The main action takes place after the Pope declares war upon "the infidel," that is, the Moslems currently holding the city of Jerusalem. Thousands upon thousands of ignorant but well-meaning men and boys descend upon Constantinople, throne of the Emperor Alexius, in order to head on to Jerusalem to retake the Holy City. Murdo stays home to help his mother, because he's not old enough to have taken lessons in sword and weapons, being only fourteen.
The reality of dealing with large numbers of untrained and under-supplied "soldiers" is brought to light, along with the politics of dealing with the leaders thereof. How Murdo manages to get entangled, the betrayl of the churchmen back in the Orkneys, and the flavors, smells and dirt of 1095 are rich enough to be instructive, but not intense enough to sicken. The horrors of war and the mob mentality are the strongest, and occasioned me to put the book aside to regain my composure. Still, they must have been mild as described, compared to the reality.
How the fellow in 1899 fits in I'll leave for the reader to enjoy. I'm looking forward to the next installment.