The Road to Salvation

Written by Rob Collinge
Review by Nick Brown

The Road to Salvation is a well-constructed book, and a page turner. It follows the story of a poor weaver’s son, Reynald of Amiens, from the preaching of the crusade in Clermont, France, to the establishment of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem. The narrative of the hero is mirrored by the history of the crusade itself.

The pace of books with this structure can often be misjudged and cluttered with too many facts and a tension between the story and the history. Collinge handles this admirably with a good mixture of detail, character and location, which sets up both Reynald and the reader’s expectations. The author is particularly adept at interweaving the twists and turns in Reynaud’s fortunes, with those of the crusade dealing especially well with effects of reality on early idealism.

Collinge writes the set pieces well, and the book contains many evocative passages such as the crusaders’ first sight of Byzantium and Jerusalem, the massacre of the rabble army of Peter the Hermit, and the vertigo experienced by the hero on first climbing a siege ladder. He also presents a vivid and often moving portrayal of the consequences of religious fervour.

There is a romantic back-story which works well, and a well-structured plotline, but the major triumph of this highly readable book is that it gives a clear and fascinating picture of the crusade and the lessons to be learned.

The book is well presented without noticeable errors. If there is a minor criticism, it is that some of the characters tend to be slightly one-dimensional, but that is a criticism that can be levelled at most books of this nature. I thoroughly enjoyed it.