The Vale of the Red Horse, Edgehill, Warwickshire, October, 1642.
Bitter divisions that have grown unchecked in the kingdoms of the Stuart dynasty are about to engulf England in a bloody civil war. 30,000 men have gathered to determine the fate of nations and to pursue their own ideals and enmities through brutal and bloody combat. Many have never handled a weapon or strayed far from their native shire. Among them are Anthony Sedley the Birmingham iron worker and Leveller, Robbie Needham, an embittered lead miner from Derbyshire who picks up a pike for his king, George Merrick, the young Oxford graduate whose prospects have been blighted by court corruption, Hywel Lloyd, a proud Welsh hill farmer, and William Bennet the struggling merchant who has staked everything to raise a company for the parliamentary cause. Then there are the half-brothers, Ralph and Francis Reeve, sons of a Suffolk farmer. Pious Francis has abandoned his studies at Cambridge to make England a New Jerusalem, cleansed of sin and filth. He despises his carefree brother and the father who seems to favour him. Caught cuckolding a London merchant, Ralph has forfeited his apprenticeship and indenture money. He dreams of restoring his honour and his fortune when he returns to London with the king's victorious army. But first the brothers must face each other in the Vale of the Red Horse, the horse whose rider is War... God's vindictive wrath!