I am not often moved to give a book five stars. As it was, I deliberated for a long time over whether to give "Sworn Sword" five stars or not. But, to be honest, I couldn't find a reason *not* to.
First of all, it's a well-written, good story, with likeable and sympathetic characters who, while perhaps a little two-dimensional, are fully-formed enough to make you care about them. Secondly, the plot is good, and while the 'main' plot might seem rather inconsequential to a modern reader, one does begin to understand its importance (I can't really say anything about it, so as not to spoil it - those who know their medieval history will get its significance quickly; those who don't will learn of it when they read the book).
James Aitcheson, the author, knows his stuff, as well he should, as he read History at Cambridge. His knowledge and understanding of Anglo-Norman England comes across well in the book. There are a couple of times when it seems a bit forced, a bit "this is something I know, so I'm going to describe it to you in detail"; but that only happens once or twice. He made a good choice, I think, in placing the story in the years *after* the Norman invasion - not only does it get away from what people already know, or think they know; but it also allows him to develop his own plot lines around rather thinly-sourced history, giving him more scope to be inventive. But the background of the story is real history, and Aitcheson manages to weave his fiction around established events effortlessly.
I was a little bit irritated by the hyperbole of the publishers' comments on my review copy, but they might not appear on the final, bookshelf version. What we do have here, however, is a very good, exciting, and well-written historical novel that should certainly appeal to anyone who enjoys Bernard Cornwell or Giles Kristian. I look forward to the next in the series.