Following on the success of The Night of the Burning, Linda Press Wulf sets her second historical novel for young people in the 13th century. In one of the two legends of the Children’s Crusades, quite possibly true, thousands of young children followed a charismatic twelve year old shepherd, Stephen of Cloyes, south through France to Marseilles, where he promised his followers the· waters would divide and lead them to the Holy Land. Crusade tells the story of two of these young people: Georgette, who sets off with her brother against the wishes of her father and the local priest who had taken her under his wing; and Robert, the scarred, intelligent orphan adopted by the Abbot of Blois and destined for a life of religious asceticism. As the initial glory of the pilgrimage fades and young crusaders succumb to disease, starvation and worse, the two are drawn together. The religious zeal with which they set out gives way to a more humane understanding and tolerance of those they meant to repress, and despite the horrors they witness the story ends on an optimistic if uncertain note.
The historical background is deftly drawn, and both protagonists display a quiet heroism. A thought-provoking read which should appeal to both sexes.