Salah ad-Din, or Saladin as he is known to the Franks, was a Kurd, the son of despised people, and yet he became Sultan of Egypt and Syria. He united the peoples of Allah, recaptured Jerusalem, and drove the Crusaders to the very edge of the sea. He battled, and in the end tamed King Richard the Lionheart, who well deserved his savage name. He was a great man, the greatest man that I ever knew, but when I first met him, he was only a skinny child . . . The Chronicle of Yahya al-DimashqBut alongside the legend of Saladin there is another story. When the Crusader army is routed beneath the walls of Damascus in 1148, a young Saxon named John is captured and enslaved. He is bought by Yusuf, a slight, bookish boy, for the price of a pair of sandals. And so begins the story of two enemies brought together by fate and of a friendship that will change the face of the Holy Land. Timid Yusuf will grow up to become the warrior Saladin, nicknamed 'the Eagle'; John will first teach his young master the art of war, before returning west to serve first the King of Jerusalem and then King Richard himself.From spectacular set-piece battles to the political manoeuvrings of the corrupt Crusader court, from the brutality of single combat to the sophistication of Islamic life, this is the first in a remarkable trilogy that will chart the story of the greatest leader the Middle East has ever known.