If I am being honest, I must begin this review by stating that I have absolutely no idea how this book wound its way onto my kindle. I suspect I may have downloaded it on a drunken whim, as being medieval and mock historical (and not a classic); it is not the kind of story I generally go out for. However, after having read it, I am not completely upset with having paid for and downloaded it. While it is undoubtedly weird, testament to why I normally do not read books that have been translated, it is definitely not bad.
Road to Jerusalem is the first book in a series concerning a boy named Arn Magnusson, and his road (literally and figuratively) from Sweden to Jerusalem. This first book is (as every first part of a story is apt to be), entirely concerned with the introduction of the character. The story begins shortly before Arn’s birth, with the last tribulations of his mother, and follows him through his upbringing in a monastery to his reintroduction to everyday life. His sparse upbringing, and extensive theological and military training are heavily contrasted with those of his contemporaries. As is his naiveté. Altogether it is wonderful tale of Christianity’s place in the twelfth century. And especially a brilliant commentary on the cloisted life of monasteries.
It is quite hard to both fathom and explain how this book is written, as it is not originally an English book. For starters, it is incredibly dense. Almost Tolkien like. And it is therefore not a very easy book to get into. There are also many words that have not been translated, which break the story and disrupt the flow. However, the reason for much of the difficulty is that the story is incredibly detailed. So detailed in fact, that once you do get into the flow of the story you are quite easily lost in this ancient world of barbarians and Christians. Furthermore, the subtle commentary both on Christianity, as well as twelfth century Sweden (from where the author hails), is utterly fascinating. Especially the contrast in military and mental proficiency between the “barbaric” Swedes and the Christian monks.
All in all, this book (as well as the trilogy) would probably only appeal to a niche audience. One that is interested in tales of the crusades, and ancient Christianity. For those of you who fit this description I very much suggest giving it a gander. Otherwise, maybe give this one a miss. For my part, while I enjoyed the book and will likely read the rest of the series in the future, for now it is onward and upward.
Title: Road to Jerusalem
Author: Jan Guillou
Pages: 400 (Paperback)
Josh Rating: 3/5