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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crushing the English
This is a historical novel covering the counter-attacks by the northern English against the Normans in York and Durham. The skulking way of war practised by the "Northumbrians" (well covered in William Kapelle's "The Normans In The North") gives more success than the manly ways of Wessex. The author has gone to a great deal of trouble to fit the story in its historical...
Published on 6 July 2011 by Charles Vasey

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good page turner
For such a pivotal event in English history, the Norman Conquest has inspired surprisingly little historical fiction, much of it the preserve of authors aiming at the younger reader like Henry Treece's Hounds of the King or Eleanor Watkins' Greyback and the odd fictionalised account of Hereward the Wake. Even French authors don't seem terribly inspired by the Normans,...
Published on 10 Mar 2012 by Trevor Willsmer


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crushing the English, 6 July 2011
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This is a historical novel covering the counter-attacks by the northern English against the Normans in York and Durham. The skulking way of war practised by the "Northumbrians" (well covered in William Kapelle's "The Normans In The North") gives more success than the manly ways of Wessex. The author has gone to a great deal of trouble to fit the story in its historical background. The use of contemporary spellings was, I thought, very atmospheric. However, the careful positioning and historical background are undermined by a slow pace; in part this is to develop the characters but I felt it acted to the detriment of the plot. A little more Dumas is needed, I think. This book will be enjoyed by those who like the more languorous plots (the Jack Aubrey novels for example) rather than the short sharp "A Game Of Thrones" approach.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good page turner, 10 Mar 2012
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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For such a pivotal event in English history, the Norman Conquest has inspired surprisingly little historical fiction, much of it the preserve of authors aiming at the younger reader like Henry Treece's Hounds of the King or Eleanor Watkins' Greyback and the odd fictionalised account of Hereward the Wake. Even French authors don't seem terribly inspired by the Normans, with only Alain Absire's God's Equal - an interesting reworking of the film The War Lord [DVD] that ignores the Conquest - standing out, with even Hollywood and television largely steering clear. Part of the problem is that the Normans aren't a terribly interesting bunch culturally, best remembered for their haircuts, armour and a tapestry that was almost certainly the work of Anglo Saxon artisans but also for securing their rule of a divided kingdom with surprisingly few men by the brutal harrying of the north. As such it's a brave move by the author not only to take the less sympathetic Norman side of the aftermath of 1066 but also concentrate on one of the Normans sent to harry the north into submission and expect us to sympathise with his plight when his comrades are slaughtered in a rare Anglo Saxon victory.

He doesn't always manage to pull it off: his hero, Tancred, isn't the deepest of characters and while seeing events through his eyes and his perspective may be relatively accurate, it's a rather limiting view of the post-Conquest landscape even though the author does send him around the kingdom as a conspiracy gradually unfolds that could send the Normans back from whence they came. Anyone with a smattering of history knows that isn't going to happen, so much of the interest revolves around the journey rather than the destination, and while Aitcheson certainly knows his stuff, at times you do feel that the research is dictating not only the story but how it's told at times. But to compensate there's plenty of action along the way - most of the first five chapters alone revolve around that catastrophic first encounter with the Saxons - and while the plot could be stronger there's more than enough to keep you turning the page.

It'll be interesting to see how Aitcheson plans to develop this promised new series, but it's got off to a more than decent start with Sworn Sword.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Novel idea, but disappointing, 4 July 2012
A brave decision to make Normans the heroes of the book, for although many English will have some Norman blood somewhere, most of us still side with the Saxons !

Having said that, the author then fails to create any likeable characters, all the Normans seem to behave like sulky teenagers, and Tancred is not only moody, he is quite stupid too, and very hypocritical. The dialogue is very wooden and strained and the way obvious things are spelt out was annoying - I now wonder if the book is aimed at teenagers !

Will I try the sequel ? Not sure yet !
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly excellent!, 18 Sep 2011
By 
Marcus Pailing (Bartlesnipe's Revenge) (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great debut on many counts, 21 Sep 2011
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JPS - See all my reviews
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This is a superb read which I just could not put down. Since it is generally so easy to criticize someone else's work (and I tend to do so, like so many others), it is rather nice to have so few reservations about this book...

First, the topic is original. There have been masses of novels on 1066 and all that, and quite a few on Hereward the Wake also. This one, which starts in 1069, begins with a Norman defeat in the North and is written from a Norman knight's perspective. Hopefully, the next installments will continue to show that "the Norman Conquest" did not end in 1066. In fact it took William the Conqueror some 19 years of bitter fighting before his kingdom was really "conquered".

Second, contrary to other commentators, who seem to sneer at the author because of his age, I am much more interested in the quality and depth of his historical research, which seems very high, at least to me. I may have wanted to learn a little bit more about Tancred's background but I this is really quibbling on my part.

Third, I have no problem with a first person narrative and found the character of Tancred rather interesting. Maybe he is a bit too flawless in some ways. For instance, he does not seem to be the arrogant, brutal and unpleasant knight that we have got somewhat used to expect from Norman knights. This is a refreshing change although I personnally found that Tancred was a bit too "nice" for a seasoned warrior and killer.

Fourth, I particularly appreciated the way the battle was told in the first part of the book. It shows both the conrois in action and that they were far from dominating the battlefield in all cases. Any type of force that is surprised in the middle of the night and is not given enough time to form up can get cut to pieces and this is what happens. History (or the story itself) do not say so explicitly but it does seem that a) the Normans grossly underestimated their opponents both from without and from within the town, b) their were caught unprepared (what were their sentries doing?) and c) lodging in the town itself turned out, with hindsight, to be a very bad idea...

Fifth, I was a bit less convinced with the rest of the story and having Tancred turned into some kind of clumsy detective rushing around the countryside. However, even there, the author manages to convey how tenuous was King William's hold on his kingdom.

A griping read which I strongly recommend. I am looking forward to the next volume, hoping it will deal with the "harroying of the North".
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plodding Normans, 28 Dec 2011
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H. T. Davies - See all my reviews
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This is probably a good book.

The author certainly knows his stuff and has done a lot of research into the period as part of his studies. And therein, for this reader, lies the problem. This reads too much like fleshed out thesis notes to me. All sorts of technical boxes are ticked regarding weaponry, horses, the complications of succession but the story suffers. The Norman band plods from York to London and sadly the narrative plods with them and I have to confess that I lost interest in what their quest was about, I just wanted them to get on with it. The vagaries of the Anglo-Saxon language are interesting but do not do a lot to pepper up the tale.

The post-Conquest period seems to be very popular at the moment and I imagine that this is the first in a series (trilogy?). I will definitely give the author's second offering a look because I think that if he can develop his narrative style and pace things should look up. This is a first novel which could have benefited from some more severe editing but those interested in the period will certainly get something from it. Those looking for a ripping yarn, however, will not.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immersive read, 26 Jun 2012
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First of all I would like to congratulate the author on covering a piece of English history that other authors might shy away from. Not too many historical fictions have been written about the aftermath of the Norman conquest of England - I assume this is because the English might not be too receptive to reading about the French beating them on their own turf (I am English, for what it is worth)

I would love to see the author cover the battle of Hastings, and the run up to it

Well written, with plenty of action and intrigue. This book gets 5 stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars .. excellent read .. this sword makes it's mark, 15 April 2012
I found this a fascinating read. I had never heard of the author and chose the book thinking "yeah .. what did happen after 1066 ?" I've read a lot of Roman "adventure" history but the Norman times had sort of passed me by. I tend to race through books but this one slowed me down and made me think. I found that like Tancred, the central figure, I was wandering about in a strange place trying to make sense of the land and the people - and the politics. A thoughtful adventure story where the central plot creates a framework for something bigger than the plot itself and I would defintely recommend this book to anyone who generally likes action / adventure / historical type stories but might like to try something angled slightly differently. I most definitely will getting hold of a copy of the sequel as soon as it becomes available.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intense, well written historical drama, 12 April 2012
By 
Dr. P. J. A. Wicks (London, England) - See all my reviews
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(Sub contracted to my better half)

An absorbing historical novel depicting the aftermath of the Battle of Hasting, with the significant defeat of the last Anglo-Saxon King, Harold Godwinson, by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066. Written after the event, and from the point of view of the Normans, it's an interesting and unique story.

With extremely strong characters and an intensity that keeps you turning the pages, this well known battle is brought to life with a huge amount of drama and historical accuracy. A thoroughly enjoyable read which takes you back to the heart of the battle and the period that follows.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for the next!, 23 Nov 2011
By 
Edain "Edain" (UK) - See all my reviews
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One of the best titles I've picked up from Vine, Sworn Sword might have 'just like Cornwell' on the cover somewhere but Aitcheson can stand alone, I feel, ready to be respected in his own right. The action is fast-paced but description and settings are deep and real, and the characters were memorable. It was refreshing to have a novel from the opposing point of view of so many other novels, though I feel the theme of being an invader was not dwelt on much and it would have been nice to have seen more of that. Another issue I had was that I felt the plot was a little simple, neat and tidy, which is no bad thing especially in a debut but I hope next time the twists are twisty and the reveals are a bit more surprising. Eagerly awaiting the next book from this author.
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Sworn Sword (The Conquest)
Sworn Sword (The Conquest) by James Aitcheson (Paperback - 15 Mar 2012)
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