A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title
At the time of the earliest Crusades, young noblewoman Elisabeth longs to be the person she’s always known is hidden inside. When her twin brother perishes from a fever, Elisabeth takes his identity to live as a man, a knight. As Elias, he travels to the Holy Land, to adventure, passion, death, and a lesson that honor is sometimes found in unexpected places.
Elias must pass among knights and soldiers, survive furious battle, deadly privations, moral uncertainty, and treachery if he’ll have any chance of returning to his newfound love in the magnificent city of Constantinople.
I’ve been interested in the Crusades since reading a book referencing it some time ago so jumped at the chance to read and review Christopher Hawthorne Moss’ book, Beloved Pilgrim. It’s also the first Harmony Ink title and transgender story I’ve read.
One of the things I loved about Beloved Pilgrim is that it doesn’t whitewash the horrors of the Crusades. As Elias loses his misconceptions about the ‘glory’ of all of it, so does the reader. It’s not written so that it hits the reader over the head, but it’s a gradual process which makes it more realistic. It’s not only the Elias’ journey from Elisabeth to the man he becomes but it’s deeper than that.
It wasn’t only Elias who sucked me into the story but also Albrecht. Like Elias, he has his own journey, starting off as lover to Elisabeth/Elias’ brother, accompanying Elias as his squire as they head off to the crusades, and finally finding his own happy ending.
Beloved Pilgrim is written with much attention to detail, although isn’t bogged down with it. The location and time period comes alive on the pages, but it doesn’t pull punches with the difficulties Elias faces with how to hide, while in the company of men, that his body is that of a woman’s. Despite living as a man, he still has to deal with a woman’s biology, and I liked the way the author didn’t skip around that.
A thoroughly enjoyable 5 star read, which I’d recommend to anyone wanting to read a story set during the crusades. I also found it a very thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive portrayal of a young man in a woman’s body—there is a need to books like this in the YA section of the library.