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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Sworn Sword (The Conquest)
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The title says all, this a tale of loyalty and battle. Turbulent times immediately follow 1066, England now occupied by the hated invaders. Uprisings challenge the authority of newly installed King William, Northumbria proving particularly troublesome.

Surprisingly it is a twenty five year old Norman, Tancred a Dinant, who narrates - history to be depicted from the other point of view. Initially most readers will no doubt side with the oppressed English, but skilled writing ensures a developing empathy with the man who is far more than just "the enemy". Here is no one dimensional character. Yes, he is trained to kill and his pledge means everything to him. No way, though, can he shake off the teachings of the detested monastery he escaped from when thirteen and strongly suspects he may end up a monk. He also feels far more deeply than one would expect about many of those he encounters in his life.

We join him at a time of double tragedy. Rebellion has overwhelmed Eoferwic (York), Tancred reeling from the loss of his beloved Oswynn and the death of Robert de Commines whom he had sworn to serve and protect. He feels guilty about both and vows vengeance. York will know it when he returns.

Here, with no holds barred, is a graphic depiction of how those times might so well have been. Much rings true with the descriptions of people and places. (Less convincing are some of the later devices to advance the plot, Tancred's nocturnal wanderings pushing credibility a bit.)

How petty, though, to carp after being so engrossed for 400 pages! This proved a stirring read, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Inevitably battles dominate, this not a novel for the squeamish. Amidst the carnage, episodes greatly move. Take, for example, the fate of that oarsman on the Wyvern when the fleet attacks, the crew so determined the body be buried with all due respect. Later there is the death of a fellow warrior Tancred did not particularly like. Nevertheless his emotions are stirred, he recognizing a kindred spirit. In such passages, the humanity shines through.

Aitcheson hints the adventures are not over yet. One thing is for sure: when Tancred's word is given, he means it - that pledge of allegiance henceforth his reason to be. He may not be on our side, but many will warm to the man.

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on 2 December 2013
Although I enjoyed this novel I am not sure I will continue with the other book out next year. I am a huge fan of the Tudor period but thought I would go back in history for a change, not sure I learnt an awful lot but it was a pleasant read
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VINE VOICEon 6 July 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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VINE VOICEon 8 December 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First up James Aitcheson is obviously well versed in Norman and Saxon history, the research shines through and at times overwhelms the story. This is a fault, as the story itself is not the strongest. The events at times appear as just a scene setter for the historical detail. I'm not sure that the hero, Tancred a Dinant, is a strong enough character to carry the story. While the story moves along it seems to go only from one formulaic battle scene to the next. If you have an interest in the period I would suggest you try it, but otherwise approach with caution.
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VINE VOICEon 9 April 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is set to be the first in the series and it sets the scene well while also managing to have it's own beginning, middle and end. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and it is a great read. The plot isn't too convoluted and the historical bits and pieces elevate it from a trashy quick read to an intellectually stimulating novel. I think the balance between the historical accuracy versus plot is about right. As others have mentioned, the characters tend to be a little two dimensional and the "love story" isn't particularly believable-it feels like it might have been thrown in as an afterthought, possibly to draw in female readers or to lighten the plot.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. Not sure if I will read the next in the series. Would recommend as holiday reading to someone who doesn't like to read trash!
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on 12 October 2017
Where to begin....

To be honest a poor book, but from what Ive read its his first (so points for trying)

Ive grown up reading the novels of the likes of bernard cornwell etc so looked for something different....I cam across Sworn Sword and read the reviews etc and thought give it a go....

Worth mentioning at this point I live in the North of England and know very well the locations where this book is set, Dunholm et AND Im an early medieval re-enactor 1066-1200 so the time period is very familiar aswell as the weapons, armour and clothing

What I found was that the book began well, with good character builds and back stories etc yet...

1) The main storyline was a farce.....when the party ride to find the widow of Harold (think eye and hastings) this adds absolutely nothing to the overall story

The following two points are from my weekly use of period items

2) In several cases the characters are described as wearing 'trews'...in effect trousers...these Im afraid did not exist at this time period, men in fact worse braise and hoes, early medieval version of underwear and trousers, the hoes being the singular leg trousers. If not this, at times I read of characters simply walking around in a shirt and/or a shirt and underwear.

3) The use of leg armour (chain mail) was rare, and when I mean rare, I mean rare...very few kinghts would of been able to afford it or in fact get hold of it. The central character physical description when riding into battle is somewhat wrong. Knights in the service of a lord, as is the case of our main character would of been dressed little differently from the poor peasant men-at-arms soldiers on foot.

Some may say these are sticking points etc and nothing can be perfect/exact which I can agree with. Not an issue

Overall a good first try but definately some research needs to be done and a more structured story plot. Perhaps it would help if the author actually visited a re-enactment group one weekend and spoke to the members, tried on the armour and actually swung a sword at someone.
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on 2 December 2015
Is it dangerous to have a member of the conquering faction as the hero? Possibly, but James quickly managed to make me have sympathy with Tancred a Dinant. The pace of this story is relentless, the fight scenes realistic and the quest Tancred finds himself undertaking is very intriguing. I always enjoy a book which has me popping in and out of Wiki checking out the historical facts that are the backdrop to the story and this one certainly did.
Realistically, I would have given this book 9/10 because I did find Tancred a little bit one-dimensional, but given his limited upbringing and the fact that this is a first novel and I am sure his character will develop more in the later books in the series, it's a well earned five stars. 'The Splintered Kingdom' and 'Knights of the Hawk' are both sitting on my somewhat bludgeoning reading pile and I am sure I will be more than happy when they arrive at the top!
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VINE VOICEon 28 December 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 20 July 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Historic fiction is an increasingly popular genre that seems to be one of the easiest to break into, but hard to make a success. Too many new authors are chasing the elusive sales of the likes of Simon Scarrow, Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden. One of the latest batch, James Aitcheson, makes a decent effort with `Sworn Sword', the tale of Tancred a Dinant a knight who fights for the Normans in 1069. By setting the book after the events of Hastings, Aitcheson is instantly exploring a time in history that I have not come across too often. Only three years after they took control it must have been difficult to keep on top of a restless population, whilst also dealing with your own internal French based politics.

One of the pitfalls of historic fiction is failing to create a balance between developing an interesting character, setting the historic scene and engaging the reader with action. In all three departments Aitcheson does a solid job. The character of Tancred a Dinant is your usual historic fiction fodder - handsome in a manly way, moralistic, but with a quick temper. The action is excellent, with the battles described in gruesome detail, but you still get a feel for the way the fighting is going. It is perhaps the setting itself that is the most interesting; 1069 onwards is a ripe period in history and Aitcheson hints at all the tensions bubbling under the surface, without boring the reader with too much politics.

With so many elements of the book that work it is a shame that one or two things fall flat. The love interest is cliché and is like countless other books I have read. This criticism covers the entire novel, as although the setting is new to me, the structure, narrative drive, characterisation and warfare has all been done elsewhere and better. It is pleasant to step into a book that reads like historic fiction 101, you know what you are going to get, but if Aitcheson plans to become a staple of the genre he may need to bring his own unique voice to later books in the series.

Overall, a solid debut that lacks the unique spark to make it a must read.
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on 29 September 2011
Refreshing to get away from all that poor tragic Saxon nonsense that has ruled our reaction to 1066 for too long. The Norman point of view gives this a new feel.
The plot was quite subtle and thoughtful and the author has done well to mix great action scenes with quiet moments, I was kept guessing until the end. The orchestration of action and siege and the cut and charging thrust of fighting was excellent. The wide chaotic scenes of battle are very vivid.
I enjoyed Sworn sword, and I will eagerly devour the next two when they are released.
A good debut.
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