Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: Road from the West

Road from the West (Chronicles of Tancred - Book 1) by Rosanne E. Lortz

Publication Date: September 2011
Publisher: Madison Street Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 360pp
ISBN-13: 9780983671909
ISBN: 0983671907

(Received for an honest review from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

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Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours Schedule for Road from the West

Excerpt from Road from the West



You've heard of the Knights Templar, you've heard of Richard the Lionheart - now learn the story that started it all with the adventures of the First Crusade.

Haunted by guilt from the past and nightmares of the future, a young Norman named Tancred takes the cross and vows to be the first to free Jerusalem from the infidels. As he journeys to the Holy Land, he braves vast deserts, mortal famine, and the ever-present ambushes of the enemy Turks - but the greatest danger of all is deciding which of the Crusader lords to trust. A mysterious seer prophesies that Tancred will find great love and great sorrow on his journey, but the second seems intent on claiming him before he can find the first. Intrigues and passions grow as every battle brings the Crusaders one step closer to Jerusalem. Not all are destined to survive the perilous road from the west.


Rosanne E. Lortz brings readers the first in a trilogy of books based on the First Crusade. Road from the West follows the journey of Tancred, a seemingly unimportant young man that is trying to outrun his past. When most readers think of the crusades, Richard I and Robin Hood are the names that come to mind. Lortz gives readers a new hero with a different path. Readers will find Lortz's work very research intensive and full of rich historical detail. Road from the West is a novel that will have readers redefining their idea of what the crusades were all about. 

Tancred is a young Norman with a tortured past. Guilt rakes him and he is worried for his future. When he decides to fight in the first crusade to take Jerusalem back from it's conquerors, he has no idea what he is in for. But when a seer tells him what his future may behold he takes courage and goes into battle. Great love and great sorrow await him but he hopes the two are not intertwined. The are many wealthy cities to take as the crusaders journey toward their ultimate goal in Jerusalem and Tancred must face many dangers that test his fortitude and his commitment to the cause. Not everyone will come back, and he wonders if he is one that will not return...

Road to the West is a historical fiction novel that reads like an adventure story. Rosanne E. Lortz has taken the tale of the first crusade and given it a broader audience and a new understanding to many readers. The crusades are often synonymous with names like Richard the Lionheart and Robert of Normandy, but we hear very little of the beginnings of the story. I think one of Lortz's strengths in this novel is expanding the readers knowledge of what the first crusade was all about. Her research is evident even from the first page of the novel. She writes with a very easy style. She doesn't rush the story or try to get ahead of herself, she just lets the history lead her and that makes the book very readable and easy to understand, which is usually an issue with readers who are just getting interested in historical fiction. Road from the West is not so steeped in detail that readers have to muddle through it, it flows very well.

The period detail itself is amazingly vivid and accurate. Lortz's descriptions of cities like Constantinople and Jerusalem itself are so clear that the reader will be able to feel the sand under their feet and hear the noises of the battles in the distance. Lortz is able to bring the first crusade to life. To allow the reader to see what was so important about these cities that men would risk their lives to get them back. I thought she also did a great job of describing the reasons that these men may have fought. They could be outrunning a tragic past which is part of the reason Tancred is fighting. They could be seeking a better life for themselves or a greater position in their communities on their return. There were so many motivations that stirred these men to passion, to war and I think the author was able to explore many of them. 

I did have a little trouble getting into the characters in this novel. Tancred is probably the most fleshed out of the characters, yet I didn't feel the kind of connection to him that I needed. He still remained somewhat distant until late in the book. Just when I was starting to get a handle on what he really wanted out of this crusade the book was ending. Which makes it nice to know that this is the first of three books. I'm looking forward to seeing where Lortz will take Tancred as a character. Will he find what he's looking for? Or will sorrow take him... 

I was also a somewhat disappointed that there were not more female characters. Tancred is supposed to find great love according to the prophecy, but he just doesn't have too many to choose from. I realize that most of the key players in a novel about the crusades need to be men to carry the story, but women played such an important role during this time, that I was surprised that Lortz did not explore this further. But I have hopes that she will continue to grow as a writer and hone her characterization skills. I will definitely be reading the second book on the strength of her rending of the historical detail, but I also think she will expand these characters and show the reader more of their personalities and motives in future installments. 

I recommend this one to historical fiction fans. The period detail is well written and researched. This novel is based on the first crusade rather than the more dominant crusades that feature characters we already know, so it has a freshness and originality about it that is lacking in some historical fiction books. I think Lortz was able to vividly describe the scene and the reasons for the crusade, as well as, why it was so important. I see a lot of potential in this trilogy and think readers will find it interesting and definitely worth the time to read. Make sure you check out the list of principal characters and get a feel for who is who, I was very happy that this was included.

Road from the West is available NOW from your favorite bookseller. 

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples, based on the fact that the characters were a little lack luster. There were parts I really liked and parts that fell a little flat. The second book will probably see big improvements in this area, as we were starting to see it in the end of this one. 

Rosanne E. Lortz ("Rose") is a medieval enthusiast, a history teacher, a book addict, a mom to two baby boys, and a native of Portland, Oregon. When she's not waking up with the twins at 3am, Rose is at work on her latest book, Road from the West, a historical novel set during the First Crusade and the first volume in the trilogy The Chronicles of Tancred.