Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"SWORN SWORD by JAMES AITCHESON" #BlogTour (Author Spotlight & Excerpt)

ISBN 9781402280764; Historical Fiction 
 Hardcover; $24.99; Sourcebooks Landmark 


The thrilling epic set in eleventh-century England and France marks the beginning of James Aitcheson's breathtaking saga of the Norman Conquest

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.

James Aitcheson was born in Wiltshire, England in 1985 and studied History at Cambridge. Sworn Sword is his first novel, praised by The Mail on Sunday, Historical Novels Review, Publishers Weekly, and bestselling author Ben Kane, among others. The second installment, The Splintered Kindgom, is forthcoming (August 2014). To know more about him, please visit his website www.jamesaitcheson.com

Excerpt from Sworn Sword
The first drops of rain began to fall, as hard as hammers and as cold as steel against my cheek. My mail hung heavily upon my shoulders, and my back and arse were aching. We had risen at first light and had spent much of the day in the saddle, and now night lay once more like a blanket across the wooded hills.
Our mounts' hooves made hardly a sound against the damp earth as we pressed on up the slope. The path we followed was narrow, little more than a deer track, and so we rode in single file with the trees close on either side. Leafless branches brushed against my arm; some I had to fend away from my face. Above, the slender crescent of the moon struggled to make itself shown, casting its cold light down upon us. The clouds were rolling in, and the rain began to come down more heavily, pattering upon the ground. I pulled the hood of my cloak up over my head.
There were five of us that night: all of us men who had served our lord for several years, oath-sworn and loyal knights of his own household. These were men I knew well, alongside whom I had fought more times than I cared to remember. These were men who had been there in the great battle at Hæstinges, and who had survived.
And I was the one who led them. I, Tancred a Dinant.
It was the twenty-eighth day of the month of January, in the one thousand and sixty-ninth year since our Lord's Incarnation. And this was the third winter to have passed since the invasion: since we had first mustered on the other side of the Narrow Sea, boarded ships, and made the crossing on the autumn tide. The third winter since Duke Guillaume had led our army to victory over the oath-breaker and usurper, Harold son of Godwine, at Hæstinges, and was received into Westmynstre church and crowned as rightful king of the English.
And now we were at Dunholm, further north than any of us had been before: in Northumbria, of all the provinces of the kingdom of England, the only one that after two years and more still refused to submit.
I glanced back over my shoulder, making sure that none were lagging behind, casting my gaze over each one of them in turn. In my tracks rode Fulcher fitz Jean, heavy-set and broad of shoulder. Following him was Ivo de Sartilly, a man as quick with his tongue as he was with his sword, then Gérard de Tillières, reticent yet always reliable. And bringing up the very end of the line, almost lost in the shadow of the night, the tall and rangy figure of Eudo de Ryes, whom I had known longer and trusted more than any other in Lord Robert's household.
Beneath their cloaks their shoulders hung low. They all held lances, but rather than pointing to the sky as they should have been, ready to couch under the arm for the charge, they were turned down toward the ground. None of them, I knew, wanted to be out on such a night. Each would rather have been indoors by the blazing hearth-fire with his pitcher of ale or wine, or down in the town with the rest of the army, joining in the plunder. As too would I.
"Tancred?" Eudo called.
I turned my mount slowly around to face him, bringing the rest of the knights to a halt. "What is it?" I asked.
"We've been searching since nightfall and seen no one. How long are we to stay out?"
"Until our balls freeze," Fulcher muttered behind me.
I ignored him. "Until daybreak if we have to," I replied.
"They won't come," Eudo said. "The Northumbrians are cowards. They haven't fought us yet and they won't fight us now."

Sworn Sword Blog Tour

July 31 - Mina's Bookshelf

August 8 - Devourer of Books

August 11 - Radiant Light

August 12 - Broken Teepee

August 23 - Booksie's Blog

August 26 - Booked and Loaded

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