Knight Crusader is beautifully written . . .’

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The Carey Novels by Ronald Welch

Slightly Foxed is one of life’s most wonderful pleasures. Their quarterly is always full of fascinating and interesting articles on books past and present and their own published books are also quirky and lovely to hold and to own.

I am simply delighted that they are reprinting Ronald Welch’s Carey Novels. These were written between 1954 and 1972 and cover the fortunes of the same family from their involvement in the Crusades to the First World War. I remember reading every single one of them in my junior library days and as I grew into teenager-hood I still read them as they are all so beautifully written they can be enjoyed by any age. They have long been out of print and difficult to track down and I remember very well the covers of those I used to borrow again and again from the library.

These books will be published with their original illustrations and each title will be available in a limited and numbered cloth-bound edition of 2,000 copies. The first one Knight Crusader has just arrived and it is simply beautiful. I opened it up to find the family tree of the Careys and then through to the title page and the first of the wonderful illustrations. Printed on paper which is smooth to the touch and a clear font. I simply cannot stop picking it up and stroking it. How wonderful of Slightly Foxed to give us a chance to rediscover these marvellous stories and to introduce them to a new generation. History was, and is, one of my favourite subjects and I have lost count of the number of times I used to take my teachers by surprise by some esoteric or unusual piece of historical information which I produced. I use to smile beatifically at them when they looked astonished at my knowledge and an awful lot of it was gained from books such as these.

Knight Crusader was published in 1954 and was the winner of the Carnegie Medal for children’ s literature. We are introduced to Philip d’Aubigny, a young knight living with his father in the kingdom of Outremer. He is a fine fighter and swordsman but impulsive and eager to prove his worth. His chance comes when he rides into battle to defend his home from attack by the Saracen leader, Saladin. The quarrelsome barons and Crusaders cannot agree on a strategy for battle and suffer a bitter defeat with Philip being taken prisoner by the Turks. During his four years of servitude he learns patience and guile and when the opportunity comes to escape, he siezes it and makes his way to the army of Richard the Lionheart in his Third Crusade. Here he finds his reputation from his earlier battle accomplishments has preceded him and he is regarded as one of the finest fighters in the kingdom.

Philip is tired of the unbearable heat, the infighting and politicking of those surrounding the King and determines to make his way to Britain to claim his family’s estate, but when he gets there finds it has been usurped by another claimant and, once again, has to battle for his inheritance.

This is one of my favourites of the series and I think this is because before I became interested or at all knowledgeable about history, the Crusades and Richard the Lionheart sounded so glamorous and noble when, in fact, they were anything but. The descriptions of the battle, the background and the impeccable historical research make this a book worth reading by adults as well as so called Junior readers. Pretty sure that reading standards and taste in children’s literature have changed over the years, but Knight Crusader is beautifully written in a straightforward and masterly fashion it is as clear and easy to read today as it was some sixty years ago when it was first published.

I simply cannot wait for the entire series to be produced and am determined that I shall collect all of them and later on place them before my grandchildren and tell that that these are among Grandma’s most favourite books.

Thank you Sightly Foxed.

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