Pilgrim: The Greatest Crusade

Written by James Jackson
Review by Susan Hicks

In 1212, crusaders march to the Holy Land in order to wrest it back from the Saracens, who are now in control of all but a few coastal cities. But these crusaders are children and adolescents from the villages of the Rhineland. They include siblings Kurt and Isolda, and their enemy Gunther. Sixteen-year-old Otto is journeying to find his father. Brother Luke, a Franciscan friar, has his own reasons for travelling with the pilgrim children. In the Holy Land itself, warring factions of all denominations plot and spar for power.

Pilgrim is a lightweight if violent and gory adventure. There are numerous historical errors, from the portrayal of Cathar Perfecti as bloodthirsty murderers (when the Perfecti were total pacifists) to an aristocratic woman venturing unescorted and unremarked into a seedy tavern. I was shocked to come across a greedy hook-nosed Jewish money lender and felt that this was stereotyping at its offensive worst. Many of the scenes demand a strong suspension of disbelief. Readers wanting historical veracity and believable three-dimensional characters might prefer to look elsewhere. However, readers in search of a swift, uncomplicated read and a busy plot might find this one entertaining.