Inthe final gripping volume of Jan Guillou’sboundary-breaking Crusades Trilogy, exiled warrior Arnde Gotha returns home to Sweden, determined to liberate and unite his homelandin what promises to be his greatest trial yet. Traveling from Saladin’ssand-swept Holy Lands to the Scandinavian North, Arn’sfinal adventure is a captivating historical narrative encompassing the strugglefor honor, the quest for lost love, and the momentous clash of European andMiddle Eastern cultures. Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden,William Dietrich, and James Clavell will beenthralled by Jan Guillous’ Birth of the Kingdom,the stunning and dramatic climax to a tale begun in The Road to Jerusalemand The Templar Knight, and a masterpiece of epic and magisterialhistorical fiction.
This disappointing final installment to Guillou's Crusades trilogy (The Road to Jerusalem, etc.) is overlong, deadly slow, and like The Road to Jerusalem, the trilogy's first book, features very little of the crusades. Instead it takes place in 12th-century Sweden as Templar knight Arn de Gotha returns to his homeland after 20 years of exile. Arn returns rich with gold and silver, and accompanied by a curious band of Christians and Muslims, soldiers, physicians, craftsmen, and builders. He intends to rebuild the fortunes and military strength of his clan and seek out his true love, Cecilia, who bore him a son and caused his exile. Arn's plans are complicated by political intrigues among clans, with rivalries, feuds, and alliances settled by honor killings, arranged marriages, false promises, and tenuous agreements. This is a vivid history loaded with detailed descriptions of society, trade, politics, customs, and folklore, but it's unfortunately light on action or suspense, with only the last pages containing any excitement, and even that is diluted with sanitized descriptions of medieval warfare. As a history lesson this is excellent; as a novel it's underwhelming.