Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review & Tour Stop: Road from the West by Rosanne E. Lortz

Road from the West by Rosanne E. Lortz
(The Chronicles of Tancred #1)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 360
Publication Date: September 2011
Publisher: Madison Street Publishing
Source: I received a free Advance Reading Copy to participate in a Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description (from the publisher):
You’ve heard of the Knights Templar, you’ve heard of Richard the Lionheart—now learn the story that started it all with the adventures of the First Crusade.
Haunted by guilt from the past and nightmares of the future, a young Norman named Tancred takes the cross and vows to be the first to free Jerusalem from the infidels. As he journeys to the Holy Land, he braves vast deserts, mortal famine, and the ever-present ambushes of the enemy Turks—but the greatest danger of all is deciding which of the Crusader lords to trust. A mysterious seer prophesies that Tancred will find great love and great sorrow on his journey, but the second seems intent on claiming him before he can find the first. Intrigues and passions grow as every battle brings the Crusaders one step closer to Jerusalem. Not all are destined to survive the perilous road from the West.
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Road from the West is a historical fiction novel that focuses on the adventures of Tancred, a young Norman knight who joins the First Crusade. He seems to have been a rather unusual crusader, motivated more by his ideals than by desire for plunder on the way. That seems unusual because most of the other Crusader lords portrayed in Tancred's travels were motivated more by politics, power, and riches. Even Tancred's uncle, Bohemond, was more interested in finding ways to gain riches and power from their actions than in the ultimate goal of freeing Jerusalem.

I can certainly see why Ms. Lortz was drawn to these people and this time period. There are unexpectedly unique people who participated in the First Crusade, and exploring their stories through historical fiction is an enjoyable way to be introduced to them. There were times early on in the novel when I thought it read almost like non-fiction in reporting the travels of the Crusaders. Additionally, emotion is not dwelled on for very long, even when Tancred loses people very close to him. I would have liked to get into the characters' heads more, which would have helped me to feel more invested in their journey and their successes or failures.

Tancred's story is very much a journey and the locations and geography definitely play an important part in his tale. Ms. Lortz clearly did an excellent job in researching the historical places that the Crusaders encountered, as well as the rulers who controlled those locations. I don't know a lot about the Crusades, much less about the First Crusade specifically, but I feel like I've learned a lot through this book about the main participants in the Crusade and the politics involved in Crusaders' decisions to participate.

Despite feeling a little disconnected from the main characters at first, by the end I had started to feel more invested in them and their stories. I definitely would like to continue reading about Tancred's adventures, and since this book only takes us part-way on the Crusaders' journey to Jerusalem, I am looking forward to picking up the next book in the series. There are too many questions still left to be answered: Will Tancred make it to Jerusalem? Will Alexandra win his heart? Will Bohemond gain the riches and power he is after? I must find out what happens!

Related Linkage:

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, 1st in a Series Challenge

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