A young boy grows to manhood in medieval Sweden in the first volume of The Crusades Trilogy, the second of Guillou’s many Swedish novels to be published in the United States (Enemy’s Enemy, 1993).
In the year of our Lord 1150, Sigrid, wife of Magnus of Western Götaland, is great with child when she has a holy vision of a young man bearing a shield marked with a red cross. Moved, Sigrid donates her inheritance to the Cistercian monks, incidentally buying the good favor of the king and persuading her husband to move to the monks’ more profitable estate. Five years later, her child, Arn, falls from a great height. After he lies apparently dead for hours, the Cistercians’ prayers resurrect him. In gratitude, Sigrid and Magnus promise their son to God, and he is subsequently turned over to monks. In an abbey, the young Arn is raised in all innocence, brilliantly skilled in French, Latin, archery and swordsmanship, the archetype of the perfect knight. But when they release this cloistered child into the world as a man, he knows neither the scheming politics of feudal ties nor his own strength. Arn must wade through the violence and greed of the clans of Scandinavia in order to find God’s plan for him, his road to Jerusalem.
A resolutely medieval world—bleak, hidebound, saturated with religious faith, full of both miracles and almost untraceably complex political intrigue—but one shaped with enough compassion and skill to appeal to contemporary readers, who will be eagerly awaiting the next volume of the saga.