Sworn Sword

Written by James Aitcheson
Review by Sarah Cuthbertson

Two years after the Battle of Hastings, Northumbria is the last English province to hold out against Norman rule. Tancred a Dinant, oath-sworn knight in the household of Robert de Commines, earl of Northumbria, returns to Durham from hunting English rebels to find that the town is being attacked by a Northumbrian army. In the ensuing battle, the earl is killed, and Tancred barely escapes with his life. Determined to avenge their lord’s death, he and his surviving conroi take service with Guillaume Malet, vicomte of York, who is preparing to face an army led by Prince Eadgar, the last of the English royal line. Tancred and his men are tasked with conducting Malet’s wife and daughter to safety in London before going on to Wilton with Malet’s English chaplain, who is to deliver a secret message from Malet to someone at the abbey. Missions accomplished, Tancred will join the William the Conqueror’s army marching north to York. However, in the tradition of all good adventure tales, events don’t go as planned, and Tancred is caught up in treacherous dealings which threaten to destroy the gains of the Norman Conquest.

aitchesonThis first novel is a fine example of good, old-fashioned storytelling. The tale itself is a well-judged mix of action, intrigue and thoughtfulness, laced with a little romance, and told in lucid, lively prose that sets scenes vividly and carries the plot forward without drawing attention to itself either by self-conscious literary tics or amateur-hour clunkiness. In Tancred a Dinant, the author has boldly chosen a Norman knight of the Conquest period as his hero and has given him enough depth to make the reader care about him. I look forward to Tancred’s further adventures in this turbulent and rather neglected period.