Book review: Lionheart by Stewart Binns

Ranulf of Lancaster – a young man raised at the Old Saxon church on the coastal cliffs at Heysham – is destined to guide one of England’s greatest monarchs through his turbulent reign.

Wednesday, 27th November 2013, 9:00 am
Lionheart by Stewart Binns
Lionheart by Stewart Binns

It won’t be an easy task… Richard Plantagenet is arrogant, conceited and hot-headed but he inspires devotion, respect and loyalty to the point of death from the soldiers who have dubbed him ‘Lionheart.’

Burnley-born Stewart Binns brings to glorious life a warrior king and his brutal times in the latest thrilling novel in his epic Making of England series which takes readers on a journey through this nation’s unique, exciting and action-packed history.

Binns, whose passion for history shines through his stirring adventure novels, rounds of a magnificent quartet in fine style with this heart-thumping account of the Crusader King Richard I.

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Lionheart is a magical mix of fact and fiction, plucking the legendary Richard from his pedestal and carving out a flesh-and-bones man… fearless, charismatic, impetuous and compellingly human.

We view his life through the eyes of Ranulf, a knight born on the rugged coast of north-west England who has distinguished himself in battle and who, along with wise and knowledgeable monk Father Alun, has been carefully selected to prepare Henry II’s third son for kingship.

It’s 1176 and Henry rules a vast empire that stretches from the north of Scotland to the foothills of the Pyrenees but he is growing older and his powerful and ambitious sons, known as the ‘Devil’s Brood,’ are restless.

The most remarkable of them all is Richard, Duke of Aquitaine, the kingdom he inherited from his formidable mother Eleanor. Aged just nineteen, he has already earned the nickname Lionheart and has a fearsome reputation for being a ruthless warrior. Tall, lean and muscular, he is ‘the envy of any man and the object of desire for any woman.’

His eldest brother William has died and the new heir, Prince Henry, is considered to be unsuitable to control an empire half the size of Europe and lacking in the courage needed to lead his men into battle.

Richard, meanwhile, burns with ambition and bravery but has little time for England, preferring the warmth, wine and women of his dukedom in Aquitaine.

On the orders of the powerful Earl Harold of Hereford, Ranulf and Father Alun are dispatched to Richard’s camp to help him understand the importance of England and to prepare him for kingship.

When Prince Henry dies during a campaign against his father and brother, Richard’s impatience to take the throne and inherit the immense power that goes with it leads him to form an alliance with King Philip II of France.

And so, with the fate of Ranulf and Father Alun tied to his star, Richard joins Philip on a bloody quest to return the Holy Land to Christian rule…

Binns is a born storyteller, filling his novels with superb action sequences, memorable characters and history in all its raw, electrifying reality.

Lionheart and the other novels in this page-turning series – Conquest, Crusade and Anarchy – deliver irresistible adventure stories as well as an entertaining history lesson on the events that laid the foundations of modern Britain.

(Penguin, paperback, £6.99)