The Broken Road by B R Collins (February 2012, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, ISBN: 1408806495)
Notes: The following review is written by Amanda Gillies who reviews crime fiction on my Euro Crime website. You can read her crime reviews here and her YA reviews here.
Review: This is a heart-breakingly beautiful story that leaves you with tears in your eyes.
This latest book by B R Collins touches on the very moving topic of the Children’s Crusades that took place some 800 years ago, after the failure of the Fourth Crusade to liberate Jerusalem from the Infidel and return it to Christian rule. Two separate groups of children started marching at this time – one from France and another from Germany – determined to win the day with their purity and innocence. Both of these Children's Crusades are shrouded in mystery and tragedy. It is moving to see such young people convinced that they can succeed where the adults have failed before them.
The Broken Road concerns the German crusade and starts when Nick, a charismatic but flawed young peasant lad, enters Cologne and preaches in the cathedral. It isn't long before huge crowds of teenagers and young adults are flocking after him and they start out on their way south. The story is told from the viewpoint of Rufus, a young red-haired boy who is won over by Nick’s passionate words and decides to join the crusade. Evading his furious father, who is devastated and adamant that his only son won't go, Nick sets out, firm in his belief that he is doing what God wants. The most moving aspect of the book is that God is a central character. Or, rather, Rufus's comments and pleading prayers to God are central to his thoughts. He seems to yearn for a more personal relationship with God, doubts God's feeling towards him but has no doubt at all that God is real and watching him. Nick could very well be a young person in today's society, confused and anxious to do what is right, questioning his motives for his actions and asking for confirmation that he is accepted and loved by God in the place of his biological father who, he believes, doesn’t love him.
The crusade ends in tragedy, as we know before we even start to read the story, but the end of The Broken Road will have you weeping. The characters are so real and contemporary that the book could almost have a modern setting and be dealing with modern issues.
Absolutely fantastic and very highly recommended.