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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 July 2014

When I first started this book my initial reaction was “what the hell”, the books style seemed very bizarre, it was very much an outside view looking in on people and events. Then slowly as I read the chapters I was drawn into the lives of multiple different families and communities, before i knew it i was hooked. This book is still odd…different, it’s not like Stewarts previous series. It feels very much like a documentary mixed into a fictional drama, yet it works, it works so well. Anyone who reads my reviews and follows my blog knows I love Historical Fiction. But what they don’t know is that I’m really not a fan of WW1. I find the horror and darkness of that war too hard to read, too emotional to take in without feeling my own version of Churchill’s “black dog”. (read the book to understand that)

Stewart Binns has managed to portray the different strata of society without judging or demeaning any of them, and to cover in book one the lead up to and the early days of WW1 with passion and compassion, with energy and purpose, and to leave me feeling the emotion but not suffering from the horror. It’s all there contained in the pages, but delivered in such a way you can see and feel the passions of the different players, the struggles that sent individuals to war, the misconceptions of blame for the death toll and the passion to do all for family and country.

Stewarts books always leave me with a sense of pride for my country, and this book is no exception, but this is tempered by the individual courage and the individual loss. The personal tales that inspire and horrify in equal measure. By the time I finished the book I felt entertained and educated, which for me form the key pillars of a great Historical Fiction novel.

Once again Stewart Binns has managed to create something unique, entertaining and eye-opening, I’m very much looking forward to book 2.


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on 15 June 2015
It seems to be an interesting idea, one book per year of the war describing the circumstances and a timeline for a varied group of characters from very different social backgrounds as Europe teeters on the brink and descends into conflict. I found it to be slow and heavy going for quite some time, perhaps because I really didn't like Binns' style of writing. I did get into the book and warmed to the characters eventually and by the end of the book I would happily have kept on reading. I will most likely buy the second book when it is released even if just to get a glimpse of the politics and events that led the country into such a meat grinder of a war. Sadly, the writing style will have to remain consistent, Grrrrrrr.
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on 1 June 2015
I have become a big Stewart Binns fan over the last couple of years. This author has an amazing ability to seamlessly blend lots of fact with some fiction and come up with extremely interesting reads every time.
This book takes you through the first year of the first world war as things developed. Stewart has built characters into the story and used them to emphasise the love, heartache, frightening events and inevitable tragedies that happened on a daily basis. I believe there is currently no other author who could have achieved this and I am really looking forward to book two in this series.
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Whenever you tend to read information from the first world war, it tends to be either a dry historians voice or the point of view of the generals who in my own personal opinion treated those on the front line not as men or people but numbers, legitimate losses in their search for glory.

So for me, I like to read about the real soldiers, those who were on the front lines facing the dangers. Stewart’s book is wonderfully written, the research bringing the real men to life, from the home front to the front line, the reader cares about those they’re reading about and with a time that is faded along with the generation that fought it, it needs to be brought again into the light so that people can not only understand the sacrifices that were made on both sides but see the men as they were, tall, brave and fighting for their nations.

All round, it was a very harrowing book, the battlefields brutal but for me, it’s the comraderie of those in the trenches that made this book stand out and for me, a book I am more than pleased I read. This is a WW1 fiction that needs to be read.
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on 27 December 2014
I liked this book, I like different views of the characters, from the small town heroes to the mega rich Lords and Ladies and the role of the King and his Goverment. I will most certainly be buying the rest of the books in this series. Its very poignant to a lot of whats in the news being the centenary of WW1. Hurry up and write number 2!!
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on 11 March 2015
This was a great book, but was spoiled at the end as it just seemed that the author got bored and wanted to stop. Loved the Churchill parts in particular and some of the characters were extremely well crafted. However the whole experience was ruined by the sunned and inconclusive ending. Shame.
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on 2 August 2014
NOT much of a challenge, then. Historical fiction veteran Binns has decided to knock out a book for each year of the First World War, tracking the lives of individuals and families across the whole of society, from lowly workers to the toffest of nobs, some cockney wide boys, Lords and ladies, rural workers…even Winston Churchill.

The Shadow of War launches the first volley, and if he can keep it up it could become the book on the conflict remembered this year 100 years on. Many writers work-in true historical facts with the actions of their characters, and Binns, of course, does that. But seeing the vast scale of what’s going on in 1914 he cleverly steps away from his creations from time to time to keep the reader up-to-date and immersed in important fact before weaving them back into the action. There’s no guessing or trying to work out what’s happening, it’s almost a reality show way of doing it. He’s not trying to be clever, judging people or their conduct, he’s just telling it like it was in as much detail as is possible in the context of a story.

As a point of interest, Binns has done a fair job of recreating ‘mee-maw’, the language of the Lancashire mill towns, one of which this reviewer has lived in for half his life. It fits and it works in an epic that keeps its pace in check despite the fast moving events of that dark and distant summer. Tha’ll be gloppened!
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on 4 October 2014
anyone with an interest in the military or military history will be completely enraptured by this tale. it encompasses all possible experiences of the "Great War" and is, impossible to put down. When is the next episode available
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on 11 February 2016
It only gets worse. Sheer Pap. Maybe on a desert island but even there tired cliches would get tired. A pathetic attempt at what Ken Follett does. Yes, pathetic sums its stilted dialogue and attempt at character up. Most definitely not recommended unless you are the sort who enjoys leaving paper back books large as bread loaves lying around mouldering unread. I imagine it will become a sappy BBC production. If interested in WWI please find find more authentic, less treacly stuff. One might start with Robert Graves' 'Goodbye to all That'.
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on 14 June 2015
I love books like this which where the author clearly show a huge amount of research and knowledge on the subject matter but doesn't get bogged down in trying to 'show off'
The characterisations and use of dialogue is first class and believable - I am eagerly waiting on more books like this from the author
Brilliant read could not stop.
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