Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sworn Sword by James Aitcheson

The year is 1069, the location England, three years after the Battle of Hastings.  The Normans won possession of the kingdom that day, but even three years later, not all the land is subdued.  Tancred a Dinant, a sworn sword, or knight, pledged to a lord, fought at Hastings.  He saw the carnage there and the slaughter of all the men that occurred that day as the English usurper, Harold Godwineson, was defeated and killed.

Tancred is sworn to Robert de Commines, and has been for more than fifteen years.  Robert found him in Normandy where he had fled a monastery at age thirteen.  He pledged his life and sword to Lord Robert that day, and has fought at his side ever since.  He followed Robert to England and plans to stay with him forever.  But fate has different plans. 

The English are rising up in the North, desperate to throw off the Norman yoke.  They are led by yet another English king.  The two forces meet in Durham and Lord Robert is killed.  Shocked and disillusioned, Tancred is not sure what to do with the rest of his life.  When he is injured and sheltered by another Norman lord, Malet, he agrees to serve him.  Malet gives him an assignment; to shepherd his wife and daughter to London to safety. 

Along with his knight friends, Tancred sets out to escort the women.  They barely make it out of town before the opposing forces take the city where Malet is in charge.  Although Tancred wants to return and fight the English, he is sworn to his task.  While fulfilling it, he learns a secret; a secret that reeks of betrayal and could change the course of history.  How will Tancred reconcile his calling as a knight with his torn loyalties?

James Aitcheson has written a stirring historical novel.  It is strong in its depiction of the life of a knight and how battles were fought in this early period.  Life was finely balanced in those days, and the loyalties a man chose were often enough to either make his fortune or cause his death.  The history is well researched, and the reader readily identifies with Tancred and his band of knights.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

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