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Birth of the Kingdom: Book Three of the Crusades Trilogy    by Jan Guillou order for
Birth of the Kingdom
by Jan Guillou
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

In this conclusion (translated by Steven T. Murray) to the epic tale of Arn Magnussen, Templar Knight, we learn how the land of Sweden was finally united, and how Arn and Cecilia, separated from each other for twenty years, finally were able to be married and acknowledge their son.

Author Guillou has done an expert job of giving us the history while at the same time weaving a believable tale of love and friendship, hardship and war in those long-ago 12th-century times. The constant bickering of the clans, the positive and negative role of the Church, the political machinations of the leaders, and the conditions of the workers and serfs all spring to life from these pages.

It is no wonder that this three-volume saga has been translated into more than twenty languages. It is quite satisfactory to read of the isolation and war-like atmosphere of the northern world and see how it differed from life in the Holy Land, which in those times was also characterized by war and a different kind of isolation. The clash of beliefs was well portrayed in Guillou's second volume, The Templar Knight, and in this volume we get to see how the best practices from the Islamic world could make positive changes in the lives of people in the far north, who had always fought differently and didn't understand many foreign ways.

A bit unrealistic is Arn's ability to take so much loot and so many craftsmen from the Holy Land to the north. Also, Arn is really bigger than life: a great knight, thoughtful leader, pious man, loving husband and loyal friend. But these are really quibbles. We are in the hands of a masterful storyteller and a truly skilled translator, and really all we need to do is enjoy.

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