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Reviews

REVIEWS FOR TWILIGHT CITIES

THE TELEGRAPH

DAISY DUNN

Luminous... Her book is two parts history to one part travelogue. In Tyre, ­Pangonis takes us beneath the sea to swim with turtles amid decaying Roman remains. In Ravenna, waters rise upon her as she wades through the flooded crypt of the Basilica of San Francesco.... Her passion for travel writing and reportage is obvious.... It is nevertheless the ­passages of historical narrative that truly shine. Pangonis has a talent for grasping what is important in a complex series of events and ­navigating a confident path through the sources. She is especially strong on Perpetua, the Christian martyr, and on the shifts in power between Carthage and Rome during the Punic Wars. Twilight Cities is ultimately larger than the sum of its five parts. Deceptively easy narratological leaps between past and present make for a book that is both ­sophisticated and delightfully wide-ranging.

The Spectator

Professor David Abulafia 

Although the emphasis is on ancient and medieval cities, an important dimension to the book is what happened to these places once their glory days were over.... taking the reader through the modern streets , meeting today's residents and even diving underwater to find the submerged remains of large parts of ancient Tyre...In Antioch...scrambling over the ruins of modern Antakya in the immediate aftermath of the massive earthquake, which levelled the city this year.... Pangonis's combination of familiar and unfamiliar places is one of the great attractions of the book. Getting to Tyre - now a stronghold of Hizbollah - or ruine Antakya is a challenge for any traveller. But she eloquently evokes Carthage, Syracuse and Ravenna, and weaves their stories together in a way that gives Twilight Cities coherence. This is a vividly written book to savour and enjoy, whether criss-corssing the Mediterranean or lounging in an armchair dreaming of it.

The Times

"An anecdote-stuffed tour of lost cities that ruled the ancient world, then collapsed...Pangonis writes in a lively style... she is an amiable literary travelling companion. In Tyre she swims with turtles and drinks orange juice with elderly nuns. On her first evening in Carthage she sneaks into the closed Tophet, the child burial ground. She peers at goldfish in the flooded crypt of San Francesco in Ravenna. In Antioch things take a much darker turn. On returning to the city after the earthquakes of February, she finds that many of the buildings she had visited are reduced to ruins. Some of the people she had spoken to have fled, while others are dead. Twilight Cities offers a pleasant tour of the Mediterranean past and present."

REVIEWS FOR QUEENS OF JERUSALEM

The Economist

"Picturing Melisende, and other medieval queens, is not easy. The historian must get close to the texts, angle them this way and that, and seek out traces of their subjects. But as Katherine Pangonis makes clear in this vivid history, the effort is worthwhile, adding depth and unexpected detail to the understanding of the past.

The Crusades tend to be remembered, on page and screen, as a manly and Manichean struggle, in which Christian warred with Muslim and cold steel defended iron convictions. As this book shows, the reality was far muddier, more female—and far more interesting.

Tilt the medieval chronicles and you find leaders who are not the mild maidens of legend but instead women who—in the absence of dead, weak or warring husbands—ruled cities, withstood sieges and, “more mannish than the Amazons”, set off on Crusades themselves."

The Wall Street Journal

“An intriguing alternative to the Runciman narrative. A multigenerational drama at court and beyond, told through story-filled profiles, selected to remit various sins of omission and restitute the full historical record. Breathtaking. The pace never lags. Pangonis is impeccably true to the reality of the time and place.”—The Wall Street Journal

William Dalrymple

Times Literary Supplement

Dr Natasha Hodgson

Simon Sebag-Montefiore

Bettany Hughes

“Using a good range of contemporary sources, from chroniclers such as William of Tyre and Matthew Paris to artefacts such as the beautiful Melisende Psalter held in the British Library, Pangonis deftly weaves together the life stories of the dynasty of women who ruled the Latin East in the twelfth century […] Perhaps the greatest strength of this work is that Pangonis situates these women in the landscape, architecture and culture of the Near East, combining physical descriptions with a colourful and engaging narrative.”

"Beautifully constructed, highly intelligent, perceptive, humane and empathetic, this wonderful book turns the forgotten women rulers of Jerusalem from powerless broodmares into complex actors with agency, ingenuity and fascinating lives."

"Fascinating, intriguing, exciting and authoritative. Here are the female rulers of the crusader states as shrewd politicians, warrior queens and mothers and wives, holding their own against male crusader states and Islamic warlords in the ruthless arena of the Middle East. The female crusader potentates have long been neglected, so this is long overdue and it was worth waiting for."

The subjects of this important and inspiring book have regularly been resigned to the footnotes of history. But the Queens of Jerusalem are history-makers, game-changers. Delight in their company in this seminal and scintillating debut 

Christopher Tyerman

Professor of the History of the Crusades

University of Oxford

"Recent scholarship has transformed understanding of the role of women in the European Middle Ages. Now Kate Pangonis's careful yet lively and engaging study focuses light on the public, domestic and social place of noble and royal women in the unique political and dynastic circumstances of the multi-cultural crusader states of the Levant. In a refreshing shift of historical emphasis, these women, whether players or pawns, are brought to life on their own terms, their experiences and careers, even if shaped by men, viewed from a distinctive feminine perspective"

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