Book Review: Sworn Sword by James Aitcheson.

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You know, I always try not to buy books that come in a series or a trilogy because I almost always never find the subsequent books that follow up with the first one. I consider myself lucky only if the bookstore or warehouse sale happens to sell all the books required in a series which, in that case, I will buy all within that series.

Then I bought Sworn Sword by James Aitcheson from the annual Big Bad Wolf book sale and failed to realise that this was Book #1 out of three. What’s worse was that I only found out about it when I decided to read it. My attempts to find Books #2 and #3 were in futile and had no choice but to find the other two online and read it on my Kindle. It’s not a bad thing. I just happen to like the idea of owning three books of the same series by the same author. It’s weird to have either one book but not the rest. Maybe it’s just me… But do you readers feel the same way too?

Anyway, let’s not dawdle on this. I’m back again today with yet another review of yet another book I’ve read. This was what I thought of the book when I turned the last page: It feels wonderful to finally read a book that you enjoy and couldn’t put down because the story was so pressing and engrossing that it kept me at the edge of my bed (and sofa)!

Synopsis (Goodreads)

An ambitious young Norman soldier fights against desperate odds to consolidate the conquest of England in the years after the Battle of Hastings. Brilliant first novel in the mould of Requiem””by Robyn Young.

January 1069. Less than three years have passed since Hastings and the death of the usurper, Harold Godwineson. In the depths of winter, two thousand Normans march to subdue the troublesome province of Northumbria. Tancred a Dinant, an ambitious and oath-sworn knight and a proud leader of men, is among them, hungry for battle, for silver and for land.

But at Durham the Normans are ambushed in the streets by English rebels. In the battle that ensues, their army is slaughtered almost to a man. Badly wounded, Tancred barely escapes with his life. His lord is among those slain.

Soon the enemy are on the march, led by the dispossessed prince Eadgar, the last of the ancient Saxon line, who is determined to seize the realm he believes is his. Yet even as Tancred seeks vengeance for his lord’s murder, he finds himself caught up in secret dealings between a powerful Norman magnate and a shadow from the past.

As the Norman and English armies prepare to clash, Tancred begins to uncover a plot which harks back to the day of Hastings itself. A plot which, if allowed to succeed, threatens to undermine the entire Conquest. The fate of the Kingdom hangs in the balance.

It’s a pity that the author has only ever written three books (Book #1 is what I’ve read, and Books #2 and #3 are waiting to be read). His writing style is easy to comprehend. The fact that he wrote about knights and lords during the medieval era, the battles they’re involved in, the resources they use during the battles, the people they encounter, the enemies they fight, and the places they end up in before, during or after the battles, there has not been one single moment when I thought, “Oh my God, what is he going on about?

No. It was easy to read, easy to understand and easy to digest. His writing style is that of simplicity. There were technical jargon that caught me off-guard, save maybe for some parts of the book (like the types of horses which I have never heard of before — destrier, courser and rouncey).

Another thing that I liked about the book was the way the author ended each chapter. Sure, the question of “What will happen next?” meant that I will never put the book down no matter what, but isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Your reader should remain captivated by the story, moved by the events taking place in the story and hungry (and probably desperate) enough to read on and find out what’s going to happen next.

Perhaps the things that boggled my mind were the names of the characters in the story. A good portion were the Normans from Normandy, knights like Wace, Eudo and Tancred, priests like Aelfwold and Aelfwine, as well as lords like Malet and Guillaume. I believe my interest in the Vikings series aired on History channel did help with my pronunciation of some of the names, but oh man, I won’t deny that there were times when I caught myself subconsciously turning the names over and over in my head, rolling them over and over on my tongue, trying to think of how to say it. Sometimes that act alone slows me down in reading because I’d be staring at a page and wondering for a long time before moving on.

But it is not a book to be missed. If you are interested in and have a light understanding of medieval history during the Anglo-Saxon era, the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings, then I’d recommend it.

But if you are a true-blue history buff, this may not be enough to satisfy you. You have to bear in mind that this is a historical fiction novel. Some names have been changed, some areas of the original history have been changed (it says so by the author at the back of the book), so not everything is 100% truth.

I liked the book, I liked the story, I liked the author’s writing style. I think that’s what matters the most.

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