Stewart Binns: Conquest & Crusade

Stewart Binns began his professional life as an academic. He then pursued several adventures, including a stint at the BBC, before settling into a career as a schoolteacher, specializing in history. Later in life, a lucky break took him back to the BBC, which was the beginning of a successful career in television. He has won a BAFTA, a Grierson, an RTS and a Peabody for his documentaries. Stewart’s passion is English history, especially its origins and folklore. Conquest is his first novel.
Conquest 2011
Description 1066 – Senlac Ridge, England. William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, defeats Harold Godwinson, King Harold II of England, in what will become known as the Battle of Hastings.
The battle is hard fought and bloody, the lives of thousands have been spent, including that of King Harold. But England will not be conquered easily, the Anglo-Saxons will not submit meekly to Norman rule.
Although his heroic deeds will nearly be lost to legend, one man unites the resistance. His name is Hereward of Bourne, the champion of the English. His honour, bravery and skill at arms will change the future of England. His is the legacy of the noble outlaw.
This is his story.
Review “Conquest is a wonderful book. A compelling story, it is both a chronicle of a dramatic adventure and a tale of an enduring romance between two remarkable people: the heroic Hereward of Bourne and his beguiling wife, Torfida of the Wildwood.
I could not put it down and read it in just three sessions. It is a gripping page-turner, beautifully written, replete with wonderful historical detail. The author paints amazingly vivid pictures and uses the language with great skill and warmth.
My grandfather, Winston Churchill, would have loved this book. It enlivens one of the most important periods in our history and is very faithful to real historical events. I suspect that if he had read Conquest before he completed his History of the English Speaking Peoples, he would have included an appropriate acknowledgement of the worthy deeds of Hereward and his loyal band of followers.”
Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill
Reading Conquest was a mix of emotions, the plot pace and characterisations are very much like Bernard Cornwell, in fact it put me in mind of his Arthurian series. The book leads you on a journey of action and adventure as well as education of the time period, but on a note of caution the facts are well blended with many flights of fanciful fiction to make the plot as strong and pacey as it is. Reading the book makes any Englishman feel proud of his heritage, but also gives you an insight into how out character was formed over many years and through many cultures, without these trials and cultures there would have been no empire, no Victorian era, no resistance on WW1 and no stubborn refusal to hold out against the Nazis, the many adventurers explorers and the indomitable spirit may never have existed. that’s the biggest thing I took from the book.
This book comes well recommended.
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.

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.

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