St Bernard in a 13th century medieval illuminated manuscript
Traditional image of King Sweartgar, King of Sweden c. 1130-1155
Eric IX of Sweden
King of Sweden 1155-1160
King Charles Sverkersson's seal,
King of Sweden ca. 1161-1167
Book Reviews !
Things Medieval !
The Road to Jerusalem
by Jan Guillou
In 1150, Sigrid, a
woman troubled by her pregnancy, makes a bargain with God. Later
when her son Arn Magnusson miraculously recovers from a fall, she has a
vision that forever changes the life of her second son, her family's
business and even the future of her land, a land that will later become
known as Sweden. She sends her son to Varnhem monastery where he
will spend his life in the service of God. Cistercian monk Father
takes Arn under his wing, teaching him Aristotle while Brother
Guilbert, a former Knight's Templar, teaches Arn the art of
warfare. Convinced that God has a plan for Arn, the brothers feel
their duty is to train him for all possibilities, including a life
the monastery's walls. When they send him out into the world, Arn
meets and falls in love with Cecilia. The murder of a king
embroils the land in intrigue in which lords from the east and west
battle one another for power, but perhaps worse than the lords are the
women whose secretive battle for power ensnares Arn. A momentary
indiscretion will lead to a series of events that lead Arn away from
home to battle in the Crusades.
Swedish author Jan Guillou's THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM leads into the
Crusades Trilogy with a medieval coming of age story of the main hero,
Arn Magnusson. The first book in the series focuses on the
development of the main character's spiritual and military growth while
his love interest marks his growth from a boy to a man. As part
of the western Gotaland Folkung clan, Arn's life is situated within the
larger historical context of the story of the Svealand Erik clan and
the eastern Gotaland Sverker Clan and the
founding of Sweden. As a
young man raised within a monastery, Arn's worldly innocence does not
leave him immune from political intrigue and maneuvering.
In THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM, Jan Guillou incorporates the history of
the time with the literary themes of arms, religion and romance so
loved by medieval literature enthusiasts. Jan Guillou creates a
story that will appeal to both women and men readers through his
ability to create characters with intelligence, honor, and noble
hearts. Not only is Arn himself such a lovable character but so
are those who surround him from his mother to the Cistercian brothers.
Scenes showing Arn's close relationship with horses are quite
moving to anyone who admires equine beauty. From his youthful
innocence, an innocence like that of Percival, Arn
sees the world with fresh eyes, eyes that bring a reader
into his world and his character. Even his confessions of sin add
a sense of honor, nobility and honest innocence to his character.
Father Henri's wisdom, compassion and even his sense of humbleness
before God's plan make this monk a most benevolent guardian and
teacher. Father Henri is a man who has a pureness of faith yet he
also understands the complexity of the moral issues before him.
In the first book, Jan Guillou
prepares the ground for
the next part of the story with an intimate look into Arn Magnusson's
youth. Here, a reader discovers the particulars of his divine calling
and those character-forming events that will take on heroic proportions
in the following book when Arn becomes Templar knight in the Holy
Land. Arn's upbringing truly makes him the man he will
THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM is a stunning lead-in to a medieval epic trilogy.
Jan Guillou weaves together history and
fictional imagination seamlessly, taking the reader straight into the
heart of medieval Scandanavia. In creating Arn's character, Jan
Guillou draws together themes from medieval literature while also
giving them the substance and development to appeal to modern readers
more familiar with the form of the novel than medieval genres.
After many years of reading medieval texts, this reader discovered a
very special delight in the author's ability to transport me into the
world he creates. I carried this book everywhere, never wanting
to put it down but also never wanting it to end either.
Even read as a stand alone, THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM is a page turner,
although the ending certainly left this reader most anxious to start
the second book immediately which I promptly did. The
translator has done an excellent job at rendering the Swedish text into
English that flows naturally from sentence to sentence, page to
page. If you love things medieval, Jan Guillou's novel is not to
(April 21, 2009)
Other books in the trilogy: The Templar Knight (May 2010), The Kingdom
at the End of the Road (summer 2011)
Translator: Steven T. Murray
For power. For passion. For glory. The epic story
of the knights templar.
Born in 1150 to a noble family in the Kingdom of
Western Götaland, young Arn Magnusson is marked early on by a
miraculous and fateful event. When the boy inexplicably recovers after
falling from the parapet of his ancestral home, his mother finds
herself beholden to a promise made in a moment of prayer. Arn,
second-born son of Magnus Folkesson, will live his life in the service
of God—sent from his family to do holy work and to prepare for a
position in the priory.
At Varnhem monastery, Arn comes of age under the
tutelage of Father Henri, a Cistercian monk devoted to his aristocratic
pupil's education. However, grammar, math, and logic are not the only
lessons: Brother Guilbert, the monastery blacksmith and former Knight
Templar, finds Arn adept at training of a very different kind.
Observing the boy's extraordinary talent with horse, sword, and bow,
Father Henri, trusting in God's will, sends his charge into the world
to fulfill a destiny that lies beyond the cloister walls.
Returning home, Arn finds his monastic habits at
odds with his clan's old and tested ways. Yet his family soon discovers
that Arn has learned more than poetry and farm work, and he proves
himself useful at a time when he is needed most. The murder of a king
has brought Western Götaland into a whirlwind of intrigue, and
cunning lords from East and West are vying for power. And, when Arn
meets the lovely Cecilia, he discovers this new and dangerous world
holds other surprises too. Before he can claim her hand, however, the
headstrong and naïve noble makes a fateful mistake that will
wrench him from his love and send him to a foreign war—to the Holy Land
to battle infidels for twenty years.
From the frozen landscapes of Northern Europe to
the bloody battlefields of the Middle East, Arn will face brave
knights, powerful queens, and treacherous kings. The first book in the
international bestselling Crusades Trilogy, this thrilling epic of
betrayal, faith, blood, and love sets "a Shakespearian quest for power"
(Corriere della Sera, Italy) against the backdrop of the Holy
Wars, witnessed through a vibrant, unorthodox lens.