The Road to Jerusalem: Book One of the Crusades Trilogy, by Jan Guillou

Finally The Crusades trilogy is available in English! This series of books about Arn Magnusson by Jan Guillou, is one of my favorite historical fiction series. I read it in Swedish a number of years ago, as it was first published. Now it is being re-released in English again, The Road to Jerusalem, by Jan Guillou excellently translated by Steven T. Murray. This trilogy, with its fourth follow-up novel, is truly magnificent entertainment.

Jan Guillou - Bibliography

A. The Coq Rouge novels

  • Coq Rouge (1986) Coq Rouge
  • Den demokratiske terroristen (1987) The Democratic Terrorist
  • I nationens intresse (1988) In the interest of the nation
  • Fiendens fiende (1989) Enemy's Enemy
  • Den hedervärde mördaren (1990) The honourable murderer
  • Vendetta (1991)
  • Ingen mans land (1992) No man's land
  • Den enda segern (1993) The only victory
  • I hennes majestäts tjänst (1994) In Her Majesty's service
  • En medborgare höjd över varje misstanke (1995) A citizen above suspicion
  • Hamlon (1995)
  • Madame Terror (2006)
  • Men inte om det gäller din dotter (2008) (But not if it concerns your daughter)

B. The Crusades Trilogy

  • Vägen till Jerusalem (1998) The Road to Jerusalem
  • Tempelriddaren (1999) The Knight Templar
  • Riket vid vägens slut (2000) The Kingdom at the End of the Road
  • Arvet efter Arn (2001) The Heritage of Arn (follow-up)
  • NB: See also review of the movie: Arn: Templar Knight

C. Other books:

Awards and honours - selected

  • 1984 – Stora Journalistpriset ("Great Journalist Award")
  • 1988 – Best Swedish Crime Novel
  • 1990 – France Culture Award for Ondskan (best novel translated into French)
  • 2000 – Book of the Year from Månadens Bok, for Riket vid vägens slut
Jan Guillou

The Crusades Trilogy is an epic tale of power, passion, war, and glory. And it was extremely well liked in Scandinavia, where Jan Guillou is one of Sweden’s and Scandinavia’s most popular literary personalities. Guillou’s Crusades Trilogy has been translated into 20 languages and has sold 2.5 million copies in Sweden alone. Jan Guillou is also the author of the Coq Rouge novels, one of the most popular series of Swedish spy novels ever created.

Arn Magnusson is a fictional Swedish character from the Middle Ages. The series is an account of the life of Arn, a man who became a Knight Templar, fought in the Holy Land, and returned to Sweden. He was related to nobility in Sweden, and played a part in many historical events that shaped Sweden at the time. Birger Jarl, the founder of Stockholm, is fictionalized as the grandson of Arn Magnusson.

The Road to Jerusalem follows Arn Magnusson from his birth and until he sets off to Jerusalem. Arn is born in Arnäs, Sweden in the year 1150. At the age of 5, he has an accident while climbing a scaffold and is saved due to his mother's prayers to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. The conditions stated in the prayer for their sons salvation is that he will be donated to Gods work on earth. He was to be sent to Varnhem Abbey, to which his mother has donated the land and is counted as its founder.

One of the brothers of Varnhem and Danish Vitae Scholae is brother Guilbert, a former Knight Templar, who instructs Arn in the use of the sword and the bow, as well as in the art of medieval warfare in the Holy Lands. And Arn clearly has an extraordinary talent with horse, sword, and bow. His exceptional talent in these areas makes it clear that Arn's vocation lies outside the monastery. So he is sent home.

When he returns home from the monistary, Arn finds his habits at odds with his clan's old and tested ways. And his family discovers that Arn is very well-versed in the art of warfare. Also, his skills are sorely needed. The country is in turmoil, and several lords are vying for power. Arn quickly becomes a pawn in the huge plays of power taking place at the time.

However, there is love as well in this novel. Arn meets the lovely Cecilia and falls in love. After Arn has fallen into sin by having sexual intercourse with two sisters - both Cecilia and her sister - before marriage, he is sentenced to go to the Holy Land as a Knight Templar and battle infidels for twenty years.

This is a fabulous historical thriller, and provides an interesting perspective on twelfth century religion and society in Sweden. Guillou masterfully immerses readers in the historical context. It is a stunning series about brave knights, powerful and relatively independent women and treacherous kings, and the roles they played in the shaping of Sweden.

PS: According to rumors, details of a U.S. film production are likely be announced soon. And a Swedish film based on the first book has already been released. The second book in the Crusades Trilogy, The Templar Knight, is due out May 2010.

“Destined to become a classic, THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM is a brilliant, dramatic recreation of the medieval world, offering suspense, intrigue, a touching love story, and an extremely appealing young hero. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.”
--Sharon Kay Penman, New York Times bestselling author of Devil's Brood

The Templar Knight: Book Two of the Crusades Trilogy, by Jan Guillou

The second book in the series, The Templar Knight, is everyThe Templar Knight - the Crusades Trilogy - by Jan Guillou bit as good as the first, The Road to Jerusalem. We follow Arn Magnusson, born in 1150 to an aristocratic Swedish family and educated at a Cistercian monastery. He has become a master archer and swordsman under the tutelage of the giant Brother Guilbert, a former knight.

In this book, Arn becomes a highly respected Knight Templar in the Holy Land. As an occupation officer in Palestine, he discovers that the infidel Saracens don't appear to be quite as brutish and uncivilized as they are portrayed in Christian propaganda. On the contrary, in love and war, he learns from the example of his noble adversary Saladin that there's another side to the teachings of the Cistercians. At the same time, events in his native Sweden signal that something important is about to happen.

The Templar Knight is a brilliant and very dramatic recreation of the world of the crusades, and is full of suspense and intrigue. It also has an extremely appealing young Swedish hero and a very touching love story.

The book is excellently written and translated (by Steven T. Murray), has interesting and intelligent interpretations of the historical subject matter, and is very suspenseful. This is one of the best series of historical novels of the medieval age, and an exciting and extremely entertaining read. One of my personal favorites, which I strongly recommend!


“Thrilling and inspiring, bloody and romantic; utterly of its time and utterly modern” — Tom Holland

Birth of the Kingdom (Crusades Trilogy 3), by Jan Guillou

The third book in the historical fiction trilogy Birth of the Kingdom, by Jan Guillou about Arn Magnusson follows Arn as he returns to Sweden after having served out his punishment in the Holy Land; after 20 years as a Knight Templar. During this period Arn de Gotha, as he is known there, has become one of the most feared warriors of the Knights Templar fighting to liberate Palestine with the Crusaders.

At the great battle for Jerusalem, a mammoth and very bloody struggle where the Christians were finally defeated, Arn is saved from certain death by Saladin, his longtime enemy and trusted friend. Ravaged by wounds and sickness, Arn is at last granted his wish: to return at last to his homeland, it plagued by endless wars. There he wants also to meet again Cecilia Algotsdotter, the woman he has loved all his life - the woman for whom he was exiled.

Arn Magnusson returns to Sweden with a strange crew of warriors; Saracens, Franks and others who are bound by oath to serve him for five years. With their skills and resources available to him, Arn pursues two separate goals: The first is building an invincible fortress for the Folkung clan. The second is building a new church. What he and his allies are creating is nothing less than the kingdom of Sweden – a unified and more modern country of Swedes.

This third book in the Crusades Trilogy is a great and very fitting conclusion to it. It really is about the Birth of The Kingdom - namely Sweden. The series is well researched, very well written, and very interesting, as well as very suspenseful and entertaining.


Catherine A. McClarey (8/21/2011):

I just finished reading Jan Guillou's "Crusades Trilogy," and would love to read the "next generation" sequel, The Heritage of Arn (Arvet efter Arn).

However, it doesn't look like that book's been translated into English yet. This isn't an insurmountable obstacle to my enjoying the book, since I did learn Swedish in college; however, it's been many years since then, and reading an entire book in Swedish would go very SLOWLY (if I wanted to understand what I was reading). Has anyone heard anything on plans to produce an English translation of Arvet efter Arn? I would immediately order such a translation, were it available.

Peter (8/21/2011)

As far as I know it hasn't been translated yet. I've read it in Swedish - it's excellent. If may be worth the effort.

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Most recent Scandinavian movies on DVD reviewed:

King of Devil's Island - Stellan Skarsgård

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The Killing - an excellent Danish crime fiction TV series

Arn: Templar Knight - based on the Crusades trilogy by Jan Guillou

Jar City, excellent Icelandic crime movie based on a book by Arnaldur Indridason

Troubled Water - an extraordinary Norwegian movie

Pusher Trilogy. Hard, violent Danish movies about gangsters.

As it is in Heaven. Charming Swedish movie, romantic, funny, warm.

Max Manus - about a hero in the Norwegian resistance during WWII

Flame and Citron - about the Danish resistance during WWII

Antichrist and other movies by Danish Lars von Trier

The Van Veeteren collection (Hakan Nesser)

Kurt Wallander series (Henning Mankell)

Irene Huss movies (Boxed set) Helene Tursten