Saturday, 8 January 2011
Review: Crusade by Linda Press Wulf
The novel sees Georgette and Robert leaving all they've ever known to join the crusade of a boy who calls himself a prophet; a charismatic young leader whose rousing words inspire them, alongside thousands of other children, to embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Drawing upon various historical accounts of a Children's Crusade, Linda Press Wulf's original tale reveals its subtle parallels with the kind of indoctrination that still contributes to religious extremism today. It's the story of two characters navigating the strict teachings of the church and the prejudiced beliefs of their peers, and discovering what they themselves believe to be right and true.
Chiefly, Crusade is Georgette's journey. Part coming-of-age story, part adventure, it's packed with danger and conflict and inner turmoil for our heroine. Though Georgette's innocence is perhaps her most striking characteristic, she also possesses a deceptive inner strength and determination. At a time when most regular people were illiterate and scholars were always male, her natural desire to learn also sets her apart. There's a surprisingly passionate love story here too, as Georgette's journey is mirrored by that of Robert, a scarred outsider with a remarkable intellect who has much to learn about the heart. The narrative voice, while third person, is so intimate that it's easy to get inside both characters' heads and see events as they do.
At under two hundred and fifty pages, this is a fairly brief read but also a rare and poignant one. Whilst the ending perhaps attempts to pack a little too much into a few short chapters, this doesn't detract significantly from the from the overall experience. Rich in period detail and indredibly authentic in voice, it's a book that takes distant legends of a Children's Crusade and transforms them into something vital and powerful. Fans of historical fiction will no doubt be drawn to Crusade, but I'd also recommend it to anyone looking to immerse themselves in a beautifully drawn imagining of a world not often explored in YA fiction.
Out: January 3rd 2011, UK
Many thanks to Bloomsbury for providing a review copy of this book.