About the Book:
Tancred has been raised a knight. So when he turns away from a crucial battle, his fellow knights are puzzled. Tancred will not be swayed, refusing to fight and instead seeking the Pope’s advice. When the Pope suggests he pledge himself to the Crusades, Tancred is overjoyed. He begins to raise his army immediately, dreaming of Jerusalem and the road he will take to free it. Of course, that road is far from straight and easy. But though Tancred is young, he is also ambitious, confident of his abilities and determined to walk his own path amidst the perils and personalities he encounters on his quest. Road from the West chronicles the start of Tancred’s journey eastward.
Road from the West is good, solid historical fiction. It isn’t riddled with scandal or or breathtakingly unpredictable. It does, however, feature the sort of hero one can get behind: young and determined, with a moral compass to guide his actions and the smarts to find his way in the world. Its supporting characters are intriguing and individual, providing a colorful context into which Tancred’s story is worked.
Rosanne Lortz writes in a style I’ve found rare in my admittedly limited experience with historical fiction. Over flowery language and paragraphs that drip with details, Lortz favors simple prose and sparse yet effective bits of atmosphere. Rather than describe exactly how something is done or precisely what a scene looks like, Lortz writes just enough that the reader knows and can picture what is happening yet has plenty of room to utilize her imagination. In this respect Road from the West reads a bit like contemporary fiction does, the author assuming the reader and characters share common points of reference that make extended explanation unnecessary. I found nothing lacking in Lortz’s approach and enjoyed how she let Tancred’s story be the novel’s focus.
When I began reading Road from the West, I did not realize that Tancred was, in fact, a historical figure. I learned this from the author’s note at the end. Knowing that small detail changed the way I perceived the book. I had wondered, as I read, why certain events happened, as some seemed not to fit clearly into the overall narrative, or why Lortz chose to include so many cities for Tancred and his fellow Crusaders to besiege. It turns out Lortz has extensively researched Tancred’s life and crafted a novel based closely on the real deal. I appreciated Tancred’s story more for its historical reality and found myself more interested in him as a person than I might have been in a fictional hero.
Fans of historical fiction will most likely enjoy this first installment of Tancred’s tale, especially those who like their novels strongly guided by the actual past. I know I’m curious to continue his story whenever Book II is released!