Harold of Hereford was raised by his mother Estrith, a respected nun and churchwright, to take pride in his English heritage and to honour his father, Sweyn of Bourne, and the legacy of his grandfather, Hereward of Bourne. During the first half of Anarchy, we learn of Harold’s early exposure to Norman savagery then follow his coming of age and knightly adventures in the eastern Mediterranean and the Holy Land. Harold survives a pirate attack, participates in the destruction of Zadar, loses the woman he loves and becomes one of the founding members of the Knights Templar. After the battle for Tyre, Harold returns to England with his faithful companion and sergeant, Eadmer.
In the second half, Harold becomes further dedicated to his English ancestry and commits himself to helping Empress Matilda secure the throne after the death of Henry II. When Stephen of Blois seizes the throne, civil war erupts across England.
Stewart Binns has created a story full of adventure, heroic figures and calamitous events. Historic detail is woven seamlessly into the narrative. The voice is that of a man relaying his personal story, which from time to time creates a sense of looking down on the action rather than being in the thick of it. Nonetheless, the characters and times readily come alive. A thoroughly enjoyable read.