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Summary

The Crusaders, led by Richard I of England, are encamped in the Holy Land, and torn by the dissensions and jealousies of the leaders, including, besides Coeur de Lion himself, Philip of France, the duke of Austria, the Marquis of Montferrat, and the Grand Master of the Templars. The army's impotence is accentuated by the illness of Richard.

A poor but doughty Scottish crusader, known as Sir Kenneth or the Knight of the Leopard, on a mission far from the camp encounters a Saracen emir, with whom, after an inconclusive combat, he strikes up a friendship. This emir proves subsequently to be Saladin himself, and he presently appears in the Christian camp in the disguise of a physician sent by the Soldan to Richard, whom he quickly cures.

Meanwhile, Sir Kenneth is lured from his post by Queen Berengaria, Richard's wife, who in a frolic sends him an urgent message purporting to come from Edith Plantagenet, for whom Sir Kenneth has a romantic attachment. During his brief absence, his faithful hound is wounded and the English flag torn down. Sir Kenneth, thus dishonored, narrowly escapes execution at Richard's order by the intervention of the Moorish physician, who receives him as his slave. Kindly and honorably treated by Saladin, he is sent, in the disguise of a black mute attendant, to Richard, whom he saves from assassination. Richard pierces Kenneth's disguise and gives him the opportunity he desires of discovering who wounded the hound and tore down the standard.

As the Christian princes and their forces file past the re-erected standard, the hound springs on Conrade of Montferrat and tears him from his horse. A trial by combat is arranged in which Sir Kenneth defeats and wounds Montferrat, and is revealed to be Prince David of Scotland. The obstacle that his supposed lowly birth presented to his union with Edith Plantagenet is thus removed.

Originally published in the United States, 1929; (P)2002 Blackstone Audiobooks

Critic reviews

"In narrating the romance, Robert Whitfield excels at phrasing, which, accompanied by his pleasant voice and British accent, makes this tape pleasant listening." ( AudioFile)

What listeners say about The Talisman

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Really enjoyed revisiting an old friend.

The best Scott novel to read or listen too first.
Try Quentin Durward as a follow-up. Many of the others start with 30+ pages of introductory description and scene setting. You meet the main characters in a desert scrap early in this novel.... much easier to learn the wonderful pace and description of Scott after such a start.

I enjoyed the narration which I found comfortable and well paced.

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High Drama in Desert

Exciting tale of chivalry and treachery during a truce between Crusaders and Saracens. Intrigue romance and surprises mixed together make this intoxicating tale.

2 people found this helpful

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Hark! Thoust trestle of offal be engulfed in flame

Where to begin. The works of Walter Scott popularized historical fiction in the nineteenth century, but time has not been kind listening to this in 2022. The world of Outremer fleshed out in cardboard cut outs, with characters so wooden as to be absurd, this resembles more a comic opera by Gilbert & Sullivan than a good piece of fiction.

This comedy is only enhanced by the narration of Whitfield, whose voice evokes the spirit of Terry-Thomas fiddling with his pointed 'tache. The laughter becomes all consuming when Whitfield affects a high pitched voice for the female characters, an attempt that turns into a Python-esque farce.

An intoxicating tale indeed, as listening to this tripe certainly resembles food poisoning.

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The Talisman

Enjoyable listen and a good performance by Robert Whitfield.
My first WS novel, & highly recommended. An enjoyable good old fashioned romp.
I look forward to listening to more of Sir Walter Scott’s works.

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Interesting as a historical literary artefact

Walter Scott is much less popular than many other 19th century authors in English, such as Dickens, Trollope, Gaskell, Hardy etc and I listened to this partly to see why not.
Pretty obvious, given the arcane and almost wilfully obscure vocabulary ( I suspect that earlier readers relished this very quality as a sign of refinement),and priggish pomposity of most of the characters.
Arguably it is no more or less accurate that the majority of 'historical' fiction, which betrays more about the values of it times and its author than about the events depicted (see, he's got me at it now!) but I found the style very turgid. And if we are going to get formal about things, far to many sentences that end in prepositions, and an irritating assumption that even a reader, rather than a listener, cannot keep track of a dialogue between two characters without being prompted with some verbose reminder of their identity at every line. A modern copy editor would have no truck with what would now be regarded as clumsy over-writing.
Having said that, the narrator's verbal style matches the text, and he does a good job with differentiating the characters. But life is real too short for this, given that so many other period authors are so much better. Back to Elliot, says I

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Enjoyable performance

Fantastic story even though it is wordy in parts. The reading performance was fantastic and made it very enjoyable.

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Fun little tale

Good story well narrated. If only the historic Richard Lionheart was anything like this.

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  • GoryDetails
  • 19-10-05

Surprisingly enjoyable adventure!

I had only dim recollections of The Talisman as one of Scott's lesser-known works (as compared with Ivanhoe, anyway), but when I found this version, read by favorite narrator Robert Whitfield (aka Simon Vance) I had to give it a try. And I was delighted! It's a wonderful romp, with surprisingly liberal views of Saladin and his host; King Richard comes off rather poorly in comparison. The secret identities got a bit far-fetched, but it was all entertaining. Recommended!

12 people found this helpful

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  • Adam
  • 12-11-05

the talisman (unabridged)

I'll keep this short and sweet. I was so enthralled with the reader and the story that I lost track of time in my 1 1/2 commute into Seattle. My friends are tired of me talking about it.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Benedict
  • 12-12-06

Pretty good

This book surprised me. I liked the historical flavor, which had some degree of accuracy, along with a lot of fiction. But the story is great.

I have to say the language is quite a chore to get through. It is flowery and erudite. I decided to listen to the whole thing again and I liked it very much more the second time. If you can catch the whole meaning of the story from listening to it one time, I would like to meet you!

Sir Walter Scott is a superlative writer. My first recommendation of course would be Ivanhoe. It is interesting to contrast Scott's writing with Hemingway's direct and simple language. The reading was great and enjoyable.

It feels odd to me giving four stars to a classic writer's efforts, but I have done the deed. At the same time, it is worth the effort to "get it."

Ben

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  • Matthew B. Vaden
  • 01-02-16

very entertaining. great performance.

Sir Walter Scott is a master of the historical novel, and probably one of the first to have employed the genre as we know it with expert craftsmanship. The themes of this book, like Ivanhoe, include the honor and greatness of chivalry, respect between enemies, and the oft-hidden nature of nobility.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sofie
  • 28-05-09

Very entertaining!

I tried to read this book and found it dull and difficult to get through, but I had to read it for a class. Then I found it here and I have really enjoyed it. The narration is brilliant and the book is perfectly suitable for beeing read aloud!

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  • George
  • 15-07-22

Deservedly called a classic.

Enjoyable book. It has a lot of the tropes used in fantasy writing. Still it had its surprises. Highly recommended. The narrator was great.

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  • Cheryl
  • 28-06-22

At it's soul it's a sister to "Eaters of the Dead"

I truly enjoyed listening to this! I love the detail and the well done research.

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  • Damian
  • 23-04-22

Not the best story, but…

…the mellifluous prose and powerful vocabulary demands admiration by lifting the writing far above today’s limpid English. This is a chivalric romance, almost a fairy tale, but, if nothing else, the elegant delivery (verging, perhaps on the flowery) dispenses a rebuke to modern authors hoping to be men of letters. The Talisman is a vast arsenal of powerful words, both an inspiration and a reproach to those of us who would pretend to be fluent in English.

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  • Sarah
  • 03-07-21

Excellent.

Loved the story as well as the reader. This is the second book by Scott that I have read (the first being Ivanhoe). The ending was expected, but happened in a surprising way.
I listened to Scaramouche read by Whitfield and enjoyed the reading so much that I immediately searched for another classic read by him.
Highly recommend.

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  • Soozy Loo
  • 20-02-21

Wonderful Story

I would recommend this book to everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The narrator did a superb job as well.