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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great follow up to Sworn Sword - Tancred is back!
The Splintered Kingdom is superbly and aptly named. The Norman Conquest of 1066 ripped the fabric of England to shreds - aristocrats became rebels, conquering warriors were now owners of hostile land newly divided and the ordinary men and women of England, speakers of a foreign language, were little more than property. They were also caught in the middle as William the...
Published on 13 Sep 2012 by Kate

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea
Too me, the book was mediocre at best. Though I do not expect everyone to be bothered by these problems, they did make it hard for me personally to finish the book.

First of all, I like my historical fiction historically accurate. Of course, authors should be allowed to use artistic license to fill in the blanks of known history, but I would like this filler to...
Published 17 months ago by DBev


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great follow up to Sworn Sword - Tancred is back!, 13 Sep 2012
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The Splintered Kingdom is superbly and aptly named. The Norman Conquest of 1066 ripped the fabric of England to shreds - aristocrats became rebels, conquering warriors were now owners of hostile land newly divided and the ordinary men and women of England, speakers of a foreign language, were little more than property. They were also caught in the middle as William the Conqueror and his barons strove to keep their winnings safe in their iron fists.

Our hero, if he can be called that, is Tancred a Dinant, a Breton and Norman knight who, after impressing with his bravery at Hastings and in the streets of York (as told in the preceding novel Sworn Sword) is now lord of an estate in the Welsh borders in Shropshire (as it would be called now). Possibly unusually, but perhaps not, Tancred takes his duties as lord seriously and when his tenants are attacked and stolen by Welsh raiders he feels honour bound to protect them. The news comes that his great enemy, Eadger the Aetheling, the hope of the English, has joined with the Welsh to harass the invaders and so Tancred is among the many who follow their sworn lord, in his case Robert, to join up with William the Conqueror's fearsome armies.

Tancred is not just an anonymous knight in armour, the bloody hand of Norman oppression. He is, one would like to believe, a caring man who has made a career out of fighting and, despite the pull of peace offered by his new property, his relationship with a local girl, pregnant with his child, he is unable to resist the call of his oath to lord Robert and so he steps into the unknown - in this case, the wild, beautiful and hostile landscape of Wales. When the Welsh and Eadger threaten Robert and Robert's sister, Beatrice, with whom Tancred has a history (see Sworn Sword), everything becomes personal and it's not just his own life that Tancred puts at risk. You might want to place bets on who will emerge in one piece at the other end of the novel.

The Splintered Kingdom is written from the first person perspective of Tancred. It's through his eyes that we see the frustration of the English peasants, the ugly spite of Eadger and the wild fury of the Welsh, not to mention the bloodthirsty and punch-happy rivalry of the Norman knights. The women are far more helpless. We see them as nuns burying the battle dead or women carried off for ransom or worse. Men like Tancred can be the knights in shining armour, although here we are a long way away from the chivalrous code of later medieval knights.

James Aitcheson writes very well indeed. Scenes are described so vividly that you can imagine them before your eyes. The use of original Old English town names adds to the atmosphere of a great time in distance having passed, added to by the frequent mentions of the ancient roads that criss cross the land, the legacy of the Romans, as well as the even older hill forts which are reused.

There is much violence here. Skirmishes and battles follow in quick succession, especially that guerilla warfare that ensued as the Welsh were followed deep into their lands. While the first half of the novel takes its time to set the scene, which it does very well, the second half steps up a pace and is especially thrilling - in this section Tancred's drive for vengeance gains a focus as we follow him deep into enemy territory.

However, while Tancred is likeable and heroic, as with Sworn Sword, the Normans have done nothing to win my allegiance. Despite the first person narrative drawing us in, these are terrible times and England is like a raw wound being picked at. I find it difficult to cheer the Normans on and I am very aware that Tancred is presenting us with the official version. This intriguing perspective, though, makes for an interesting novel and James Aitcheson brings these rough and harrowing years to life on the page. Secretly, though, I was rooting for Eadger.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Desperate struggles, 24 Sep 2012
By 
JPS - See all my reviews
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This is the second volume of the adventures of Tancred a Dinan, a Breton knight who fought in William of Normandy's army at Hastings, and continued as a sworn sword (the title of the first volume) of one of the Duke's leading barons. This time, the initial setting are on the Marches with Wales as Tancred has become the lord of a manor close to the border and therefore very much exposed to Welsh raids. I will stop here to avoid paraphrasing the story and coming up with spoilers.

There is a lot to like in this book, starting with the topic itself and the way the author presents it. This second volume, just like the first, shows that the Conquest of England was by no way finished with the victory at Hastings and that the subsequent uprisings and campaigns that the Normans and their King had to launch were much more than just "mopping up" operations. This is perhaps one of the main strongpoints of this book: it shows how precarious the Normand hold on England was in 1070 and how, all of a sudden, the whole kingdom seemed to erupt in flames, with attacks coming from the North (Edgar the Atheling and the Northumbrians), the East (the Danes) and the West (the Welsh and exiled Saxon thegns).

Another great feature is to make the "rank-and-file" knights, starting with Tancred, rather believable in their behaviours and in their aspirations. I rather liked the rivalry between Berengar and Tancred, both striving to enhance their reputation and sometimes rather careless of the consequences. I also liked the depiction of the similar tensions among Norman lords, in particular those between William FitzOsbern, William the Conqueror's childhood friend, and the "wolf", Hugh of Avranches who would become the earl of Chester as Roger of Mongomerri would become that of Shrewsbury.

The battle scenes are just as good as in the previous volume, and just as realistic. In particular, they show that the Norman conrroi were not irresistible and did suffer a number of reverses. Particularly interesting was the depiction of the defeat of the Normans in Wales, which allowed the Welsh to attack and overrun Shrewsbury, because this is an event that I knew very little about. Also well shown is the complex situation in the North, where York fell to the "rebels" (since the story is being told in the first person by Tancred) for a second time and where the Danes and their king were playing a complex game. As the author mentions in his excellent historical note, the Danes' exact intentions are still debated by historians nowadays, if only because their support of the Atheling (and then of Hereward's rebellion) were rather lukewarm, and they did allow themselves to be bought off, deserting their allies and leaving on their own to cope with the vengeful Normands.

I do, however, have three little reservations. One is with regards to Tancred. Although the author does show him as a though and superb fighter that is subject to his battle lust, likes it and misses it after a while, I still find our hero a bit too "nice". As one of the characters mentions at one point, disasters seem to happen, he blames himself for them (at least sometimes) but it never really seems to be his fault. My other reservation is with regards to the Conqueror himself: we never get to see him throughout the book. Even after Tancred's "suicide mission", which does not end in disaster, we do not see him although you would have expected the King and Duke to have summoned Tancred, given the role that he had played. A third little quibble is about the battle of Hastings when Tancred remembers a scene where his rival Berengar is supposed to have illustrated himself by killing Gyrth, supposedly the last surviving of the Godwinssons, after Leowine and Harold had been killed. This is an invention. If I remember correctly, Gyrth was killed together with his brother earlier in the battle, when both were drawn from the shield wall by the Normans' feigned flight, and Harold was the last of the Godwinssons to stand fighting, not Gyrd.

Anyway, despite these three quibbles, this is a superb read, a great adventure story, and it is a rather nice way to learn about a little known period: the 20 plus years of fighting that followed 1066...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Read, 29 Dec 2012
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A good sequel to the first, and continues with the saga which I am sure is bound to continue, a very good story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faction based in true Histories, 24 Dec 2012
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I enjoyed this book, its strong characters and story-line made it fascinating- certainly an author and series I'll look for in the future. Excellent! I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in historical adventurous novels
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These Norman Knights seem to have more adventures than Vikings, 2 Dec 2012
Well, if you think Tancred got into enough trouble with his lord being murdered by a hoarde of anglo-saxons and then getting involved with a traitorous cleric who was trying to salvage the body of the 'usurper' Harold Godwineson - think again! James Aitcheson brings back the scary revelation of how troublesome the years after 1066 were and in Splintered Kingdom he reveals that it wasn't just the English wanting to get rid of the Normans, the Welsh also were quite good at kicking up a fuss. Such attacks by the Welsh were like pesky mosquito bites to the fragile Norman regime William was trying to enforce and Tancred becomes not just personally devestated by such attacks but also embroiled in an attempt to crush the Welsh rebellions once and for all.
But James doesn't leave the plot line as tidy as that for the strategy fails and backfires horribly on Tancred's honour creating new enemies and estranging his closest comrades in arms. But if you think that is the worse Tancred has to face well dear reader each stage of this battle-full saga will break your heart for our dearest Norman knight as much worse is yet to come and Tancred will have to somehow survive if he is to keep his name intact let alone a head on his shoulders.
This is a truly astonishing sequel to Sworn Sword, more packed with battles, enemies, blood-shed, trauma and of course shock and horror as events unfold to a climactic ending which no one will see coming and leaves us all gasping not just for breath but the adventures to continue in the next book.
As a firm viking fan I must admitt, James Aitcheson has shown that the Vikings didn't have all the fun adventures and battles, for Normans invading and conquering a foreign land, every day was a new adventure and a new battle to be fought and won.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fragility of the Norman Conquest, 12 Nov 2012
By 
A Dawson (Notts, England) - See all my reviews
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This second book in which I hope will be a series, follows on with the same main characters as the first, "Sworn Sword" More complex than the first book it starts slowly then becomes complex with the uncertainty of the actions of the leaders of different factions. Once the action starts it is fairly continuous, and uncertain because the leaders are not exactly team players. Although the book is fiction, the author seems to have done his research and exposed how fragile the Norman hold on England was following the conquest. This is something that I never learned in my History class - the conquest seeming to be a steam-roller event. So this to me was not only a good novel but an eduction as well. Well worth reading but read the first book first to set the scene.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE SPLINTERED KINGDOM, 24 Oct 2012
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Mr. S. C. Card (Swansea UK) - See all my reviews
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I must agree with the other reviews written this is a superb follow up to Sworn Sword in fact an even better read. The third book in the series James assures me is in the pipeline. I for one cannot wait.The Splintered Kingdom
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid action to fight over, 24 Sep 2012
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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Having fallen for James' brutal writing style with his first book I couldn't wait to see how Tancred would develop for the reader in this outing. As with the first the combat is high octane, the character a joy to hang around and when you face other titles that deal with the same timeline with similar sorts of heroes (like Hereward for example) it is a surprise that the Normans did a well as they did after Hastings.

Add to this some double dealing, potential backstabbing along with a story where honour is worth more than gold and for any reader this is a title that will be devoured in a very short time, Finally add to the mix that James has kicked his writing up a notch with lessons learned from his first book and all in its definitely a book that I know will be pilfered from my collection by a certain relative for his pure enjoyment.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The incessant pace of the plot that means you cannot put the book down, 11 Sep 2012
By 
Parm (A bookshop near you) - See all my reviews
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Review:

This for me was a highly anticipated second book. Book 1 Sworn Sword was a real eye opener of a book, something a little different, a different perspective on a bloody time in English history. (i love a good few battles with plenty of fighting).

Splintered Kingdom doesn't disappoint in that respect, and how could it! A time of what we would now call genocidal attacks and death/ murder and mayhem on a national scale. But don't be fooled into thinking there were any good guys in this scenario. Every-side had its share of killers.

Why would you want to read this?

Maybe the excellent prose!

Or the first rate characterisation!

The incessant pace of the plot that means you cannot put the book down!

Or just because it is out and out a fantastic book, something that even with the amazingly high quality of this years novels, goes straight into my top 10 of 2012.

This falls firmly into my desire for each book from an author to be better than the last, and if this book was this impressive i wait with bated breath for James Aitcheson's next novel.

Thank you Sir for such an impressive book

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Description

The story begins on the Welsh Marches, where Tancred has been given land by his new lord, Robert Malet, in return for his services in the battle for York. Now a lord in his own right, he has knights of his own to command and a manor to call home. But all is far from peaceful. The Welsh are joining forces with the English against the Normans and when skirmishes turn into a full scale battle at Shrewsbury, Tancred is betrayed by a rival border lord and taken prisoner by the Welsh. Meanwhile the woman he loves is taken hostage by enemy English forces and the Vikings invade the east coast. Never has Tancred faced a more impossible situation
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea, 16 May 2013
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This review is from: The Splintered Kingdom (The Conquest) (Paperback)
Too me, the book was mediocre at best. Though I do not expect everyone to be bothered by these problems, they did make it hard for me personally to finish the book.

First of all, I like my historical fiction historically accurate. Of course, authors should be allowed to use artistic license to fill in the blanks of known history, but I would like this filler to be believable and based on likely situations. The author does try to address this in the historical note but I was unconvinced by his conclusions. I also found that the book was far more biased than it needed to be. I realise it is written from the point of view of a Norman Knight, and so would obviously reflect a Norman's prejudiced views towards other cultures (Welsh, Saxon/English). However, the author does not seem to have attempted to make it clear to the reader that the character's views are often racist and wrong or provide many, if any, alternative points of view. There are very few non Norman characters that display any good qualities and it get's to the point where it seems as if all positive traits such as bravery, loyalty, honour and skill at arms were unique to Normans. The most disappointing example of historical inaccuracy in the book is the genocide that the Welsh army under King Bleddyn ap Cynfyn carry out in Western England. This, as far as I can tell, has no basis in fact yet get's a lot of attention in the book. In comparison, the infamous genocide carried out by the Normans known as the "Harrying of the North", a historical event that there is ample evidence for, is barely mentioned. Though people should not rely on historical fiction for historical knowledge, it saddens me to think that people may read this book and assume that the Welsh did truly carry out such a genocide as the one mentioned in this book.

I'm also not a fan of cheesyness or cliches in fiction. I found that the events of the book and the dialogue were riddled with both. For me, this made the storyline far less interesting and, at times, very predictable. The main character often seems like a Rambo-type figure while his enemies are very similar to Bond villains. Overall, there were very few interesting characters in the book.
Finally, there were also a surprisingly large number of gramatical errors and spelling mistakes throughout. This doesn't bother me much as my own grammar is far from perfect but I can't help but think that having a book proof read before it's sold is the obvious thing to do.

In conclusion, the book is fine as a slightly entertaining read if you don't mind historical inaccuracy, weak characters and plenty of cliches.
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The Splintered Kingdom (The Conquest)
The Splintered Kingdom (The Conquest) by James Aitcheson (Paperback - 14 Mar 2013)
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