Audra (Unabridged Chick)'s Reviews > Road from the West

Road from the West by Rosanne E. Lortz
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Sep 08, 11

bookshelves: era-medieval, historical-figure-fictionalized, historicals
Read from September 01 to 08, 2011 — I own a copy

Beginning in 1096, this novel covers the very start of the Pope Urban's First Crusade (the subsequent two novels will play out the rest of it, presumably). Written in a straight-forward manner, Lortz follows the exploits of the young nobleman Tancred, nephew of Bohemond of Taranto.

The characters, sadly, were flat, and I felt very little connection with any of them, including our hero Tancred. Despite having a lightning bolt revelation about his role as a Christian soldier at the beginning of the novel, his development seemed to halt after the first thirty pages. His zest for fighting is clear and we get plenty of that, but his mental state, his feelings about himself or the Crusades, his faith, his friendships, none are considered or explored in anyway that compelled me to care about him or the Crusades. Lortz created two female characters but both felt a bit throwaway and underdeveloped as well.

This book suffers from being too accurate. (I can't believe I'm saying that!) Lortz literally recounts (it felt) every skirmish that occurred historically, but the scenes lacked a frisson of tension and the thrill of daring strategy. To be honest, I started to dread each new city the crusaders arrived at for there would be another siege. While each episode might be differentiated by a quirky historical detail - a betrayal here, a hilarious interlude there - this novel felt interminably long in that sense and the usual payoff, an arc of change in a character, didn't materialize.

One thing that jolted me out of the story was Lortz's use of very specific idioms and phrases that seemed inaccurate or out-of-place in the story. For example, a character says someone 'doesn't give a fig' about something while another utters 'by my troth'; a quick search indicates these phrases both came about in the 1500s. Later, we get 'there's the rub' (16th century) and 'gist' (17th century). Granted, the entire novel is written in Modern English but something about these well-known words and phrases struck me as anachronistic.

Otherwise, I found Lortz's writing quite readable and she doesn't bog the narrative down in lots of explication (no long descriptions of war machines or how to saddle a horse, etc.). There's promise of a great historical novel here and I'm interested in seeing how Tancred's story unfolds. The Author's Note promises that one of the female characters gets more coverage in the second book, which makes me happy. If you're in the market for a new historical trilogy that is detailed without being overwhelming, give this book a try.
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Reading Progress

09/04/2011 page 44
12.0% "I'm feeling like I've been sold a historical novel but gotten a Christian inspirational instead. Nothing super overt yet but I can't shake the feeling. I'm v nervous about how Muslims are going to be portrayed."

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