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4.4 out of 5 stars44
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Having read the first book by Stewart last year I was left wondering if the second would live up to what the reader would be expecting, after all the first title is to announce them to the reader, whereas the second is the one that either keeps a reader or turns them against the writer.

What Stewart presents is a story of heroism, one of high ideals and whilst taking the reader on the crusades, he also manages to intertwine the fates of so many with in the pages. Add to this solid prose, a decent understanding of pace and when added to a wide story arc, generates a story that will have many gripped within its fist to the final page. All in a solid second novel and whilst he's still learning the craft, he's an author who seeks to improve with each release. Here's hoping the third improves just as much.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 April 2012
Book one by Stewart Binns seems to have been a bit like marmite, you either loved it or hated it. I thought it was great and made an effort to get in touch and tell him so, and he was kind and polite enough to respond.
Since that book one i have been looking forward to what he would produce next, and there has not be a massive amount of advance notice, but when it came i was concerned it might be a bit of the band wagon, the crusades are popular right now.
Its not, what he has produced here is a very good well told credible tale of what might have been following on from Conquest: a book that for the first time ever made me stop and wonder why are the British reserved, why are they also adventurous, where does our mix of national make up come from, what forged this great nation.

Crusade goes one better and shows you the first founding layers of the type of people being created by the amalgamation of all these races and ideals and personalities.

Also for the first time since i started reading David Gemmell back in 1986 i think i now know who Druss the legend is modeled on, and i don't know why it didn't come to me reading book 1. Gemmell had a penchant for making some of his characters a mirror for characters from history EG: Ulric = Genghis. I think Hereward = Druss. I'm not sure if that made me love it more, but i suddenly saw in Hereward the same ideals, the same blunt honesty, the same brotherhood, the same implacable killer if he had to be, but ultimately a man who just wanted the world to be better.
Stewart's writing is not a new Gemmell, but to have his writing make me think of him, that's impressive enough for me.
The story..well read the blurb I'm giving none of the plot away. But the characters slowly come alive on the page, and it brought to life a period of history again i knew little to nothing about. That make it a winner for me

Im going to be very interested to see what book 3 brings.

Buy this book

(Parm)

Description from back of book

1072 - England is firmly under the heel of its new Norman rulers.

The few survivors of the English resistance look to Edgar the Atheling, the rightful heir to the English throne, to overthrow William the Conqueror. Years of intrigue and vicious civil war follow: brother against brother, family against family, friend against friend.

In the face of chaos and death, Edgar and his allies form a secret brotherhood, pledging to fight for justice and freedom wherever they are denied. But soon they are called to fight for an even greater cause: the plight of the Holy Land. Embarking on the epic First Crusade to recapture Jerusalem, together they will participate in some of the cruellest battles the world has ever known, the savage Siege of Antioch and the brutal Fall of Jerusalem, and together they will fight to the death.
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A supurb read highly recommended in1072 - England is firmly under the heel of its new Norman rulers. The few survivors of the English resistance look to Edgar the Atheling, the rightful heir to the English throne, to overthrow William the Conqueror. Years of intrigue and vicious civil war follow: brother against brother, family against family, friend against friend. In the face of chaos and death, Edgar and his allies form a secret brotherhood, pledging to fight for justice and freedom wherever they are denied. But soon they are called to fight for an even greater cause: the plight of the Holy Land. Embarking on the epic First Crusade to recapture Jerusalem, together they will participate in some of the cruellest battles the world has ever known, the savage Siege of Antioch and the brutal Fall of Jerusalem, and together they will fight to the death.
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on 19 October 2012
I read somewhere about Stewart Binns' first book in this trilogy, Conquest, you could get so into the story you would be hoping history would change to let somebody else win a particular battle; but of course, that cannot happen. This second book, Crusade, is exactly the same, or perhaps more so...
I loved Conquest and I REALLY loved Crusade! Yes, at times it can be a bit hard-going, but as the book is packed with historical fact, there is a limit as to how much the author can dress things up. However, he certainly does manage to build in romance and excitement in such a way that the joins between fiction and actual history are very difficult to notice.
After Conquest, I remarked I had never before read such graphic and exciting battle scenes as in that book. It is the same with Crusade. The pictures painted with the words are as good as watching a film of the events. So easy to lose yourself in the excitement that suddenly the time is 2.30am!
Great book, highly recommended - roll on number three.
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on 30 August 2012
This started off well: I liked the framing device of the story unfolding to the ears of William of Malmesbury and his young acolyte Roger of Caen, told in the present tense to give a sense of immediacy.

Fans of medieval fiction may be disappointed that the First Crusade doesn't form the basis and focus of the whole story; rather it focusses on a little-explored piece of English history: the years after Hereward the Wake's rebellion against William the Conqueror, and the political turmoil, plots and skullduggery that took up the lives of William's successors and the nobles, knights and common people affected by them.

As such, it is a direct sequel to the first novel CONQUEST and must be treated as such. Page 483 sums this up:
"What they have been made privy to is a remarkable story of two families, as if in a Greek tragedy; William's powerful, all-conquering Norman familyand Hereward's modest, redoubtable English family locked in a bitter struggle over three generations and across a far-reaching landscape. What is more, in Hereward's grandson, recently in the service of William's son, King Henry, the saga still continues."

Binns must be credited with the ambitious task of bringing this murky period to life, particularly his use of Edward the Atheling, the rightful ruler of England, as central narrator. The book works well in exploring the dilemmas and conflicted loyalties this man suffered.

With such tangled webs and history-making events unfolding, Binns does a remarkable job in keeping the pages turning and the story moving: the years fly by, as do the countries visited and historic personages the Brotherhood interact with. And that, for me, is the problem.

It moves too quickly. We never pause to soak up the atmosphere of the lands, nor feel the thrill and horror of the battles fought. Instead, the conflicts are related in a dull manner that neither inspires nor horrifies.

The characters are flat and two-dimensional, and the dialogue is appalling. We don't get an insight into the medieval mind; instead, their actions and viewpoints of the world are tailored to fit into 21st century expectations. Look at this exchange between Estrith and Sweyn when they get to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem:

"Estrith was moved to tears. 'Why would men fight over such a place?'
Sweyn was moved to anger. 'Let's try to make sure they don't.'"

A heartfelt plea, and understandable with the horrors of the First Crusade that soon follow; but this is not a medieval mindset.

The book has its merits; as said earlier, it brings a little-known period of English history to a 21st century readership. You'll learn a lot, as I did, but for me the book fails because it didn't bring the period to life.

And for me, that is what I look for in a historical novel.
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on 22 July 2014
Part II of the historical epos about the aftermath of 1066, where the foundation of England is forged and the "personal" account of the denied Prince of England, told vividly. It gave me -Dutch reader- a clearer understanding of how Britain came about and how politics led to the first crusade. Fact and fiction are very well interwoven into a compelling story and I can't wait to start on part III of Steward Binns epic story.
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on 13 September 2013
One of Stewart Binns recent series of books about The Norman Conquest of Britain.
A new author to me and a happy find. I've read all three books and they are all excellent and I think very well researched...
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on 6 March 2014
These books are easy to read and offer a convincing insight into a period of time we all think we know about. A great choice for those who prefer to avoid extensive, flowery imagery and focus on the story.
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on 7 May 2012
Having just finished this book, I am now wondering how to do it justice and will come back to the review after a second reading. What should have been a four/five star write up has been demoted to three by the constant use of the historic present. "Last week, I get up at six and I am putting on eggs to cook. My wife comes in and she puts on toast. It is raining and I am deciding whether or not to go out: so I walk to the car......." and so on. This is a great, exciting tale, and the opening section about William of Malmesbury's quest is well-told and atmospheric: but the almost constant use of the present gives one the temptation to add "innit?" after every sentence ("So Dave, I'm 'aving a drink, innit, when this bloke walks in, know what I mean? ....") and reminds one of Jeremy Vine, who uses nothing but the present, and that may not be a good thing. The great Julius Caesar only used this tense to describe fierce action, as did Virgil, Ovid, Thucydides, Hesiod and, in fact, almost all the great classical writers. As an occasional device, it's effective: as a constant, it's INCREDIBLY annoying.

Now, having re-read the book, I have warmed to it to some degree. It is very much a work of fiction and speculation and claims to be nothing else. We know very little about Edgar Atheling and the goings-on of that period, and the rather cloying companionship of the main protagonists becomes wearing. Nonetheless, Stewart Binns does capture the sheer unspeakable ghastliness of the first Crusade as best he can. The sheer barbarism of the Christian crusaders, some of whom were inspired by a barking lunatic called Peter the Hermit, is fairly well attested and Mr Binns' contention that the Crusaders were mainly bent on bloodshed and plunder is, again, not without foundation. What we know of the period depicts both sides as equally unattractive: the siege and capture of Antioch is, all agree, a dreadful episode in a time marked by warfare, death, disease, privation, treachery and huge unrest. Stewart's version of Henry 1, usually painted as even more ghastly than his father William 1 and brother William Rufus, is interesting: he comes over as adapting to the regency with a degree of nobility: his unexpected Coronation Charter was a spectacular move towards what we call democracy and deserves some good press.

All in all, a darned good read. However, we have an historical novelist who is largely ignored by today's readers who writes the finest English imagineable and writes a great story with little sentimentality and over-embellishment: his name is Alfred Duggan His depiction of these horrible times, "Count Bohemond," may be one of the finest novels in the English language and, of course, uses the same sources as Stewart Binns. Both are worth reading, indeed, but Duggan's is a genuine classic.
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on 9 September 2013
Stewart Binns draws you into another world and time from the first chapter, with a great historical novel. I have thoroughly enjoyed both his books and can't wait to read the third.
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