Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Splintered Kingdom by James Aitcheson, a Review

"They came at first light, when the eastern skies were still gray and before anyone on the manor had risen. Shadows lay across the land: across the hall upon the mound and the fields surrounding it, across the river and the woods and the great dike beyond that funds from sea to sea. And it was from those shadows that they came upon Earnford, with swords and knives and axes: a band of men perhaps as few as a dozen in number, perhaps as many as thirty. In truth no one knew, for by the time enough of us had woken, armed ourselves, and gathered to stand against them, they had already turned and fled, slipping away amid the trees, taking seven girls and women front the village with them."

Welcome to Earnford, the summer of 1070 and a fabulous tale of honor among men, vengeance to your enemies, swords and arms, knights and the battles they fought to  protect the lands that they claim. James Aithcheson has earned my praise for creating an amazing story that wrapped itself around me and held me until I turned the last page and then as the story released me from its grasp, I desperately wanted more. Strong characters, well drawn setting, great plot.

The landscape of the Norman Conquest was not new to me, but it was far from being a part of history I  paid much attention to past high school. During this period of Britain's history, the English, Welsh and Normans were all struggling for control of England. James Aitcheson creates a hero we grow quickly to embrace, and helps us navigate the war torn Country known as England. Tancred a Dinant is our hero, a man good with the sword who is eventually rewarded with a lordship and manor to call his own, as he proves valiant in battle. Why did I love him? He is honorable, confident, appreciative of those around him, not full of himself, and has a good head on his shoulders. He's a born leader, though a reluctant one at times. And why did I love this book? Because with each turn of the page, I became more part of the book, until I felt as if I was right in the midst of everything. James Aitcheson created such a realism with his characters and setting that it didn't feel like a story after a while. And why wouldn't Aitcheson do such a good job of writing about this time period? While studying history at Cambridge, he fell in love with the time period surrounding the Norman Conquest and did extensive research. To put his knowledge to work in a piece of historical fiction was easy for him. Fortunately for him, and us,the writing flows easily too.

The Splintered Kingdom navigates the battles well known for this time period without getting bogged down and boring. It does this through the eyes of Tancred a Dinant, a Norman, who seeks vengeance for the death of his Lord, the deaths of the men he has fought besides and the death of his one true love. We follow Tancred as he protects his lands and the people under his new found lordship, as he is called to arms to fight for his Country, and as he lives through victories and defeats. We get a feel for the way people lived during the middle ages and how fleeting life can be. There is a hint of romance here and there, but the meat of the book is how Tancred lives his life in battle and in 11 century England.     Tancred's story is wonderful and so is the writing. I became addicted!

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