Birth of the Kingdom: Book Three of the Crusades Trilogy by Jan Guillou is the last book in the trilogy that follows Templar Knight Arn de Gotha from his days as a boy in Sweden to his exile in the Holy Land back to Sweden. The last book covers Arn’s return and redemption in Sweden. Arn reunites with the woman (Cecilia) he had a child with before he was exiled. He is accompanied by many skilled artisans from the Holy Land. With the help of the artisans, Arn leads a building effort to strengthen his clan’s (Folkungs) position in Sweden. As a result of this building and certain business decisions made by Arn and Cecilia, the Folkungs become the most powerful clan in Sweden.
The book is a little slower paced than the first two books, but it is full of a lot more detail on the time period than the previous two books. This detail gives the reader a richer understanding of medieval Swedish life. For instance, Guillou describes the relationship between thralls (slaves owned by the Swedish landed aristocracy) and their masters. Similar to slaves throughout time, the thralls were poorly treated. Their miserable life is vividly portrayed by Guillou.
The action does not start until maybe the last 75 pages of the book’s 480 pages. This action surrounds the clash between the Folkung and Erik Clans against the Sverker clan (and their Danish allies). Through Arn’s leadership, the Folkung and Erik clans are able to defeat the Sverkers and found modern-day Sweden.
Although I am more interested in books that are full of action and despite the fact that this book is not so action-packed, I enjoyed reading it. It was full of intrigue and mystery. I had a sense that Arn would succeed, but I was not sure how he would fulfill his desires. Guillou is a master in keeping the reader guessing.
The book brings to a close a wonderful story about a man and his faith and his love for a woman.