The Splintered Kingdom
by James Aitcheson
Reviewed by Alwyn Murray
The story begins in June 1069 on the war-torn Welsh Marches and ends with William the Conqueror's brutal campaign known as the Harrying of the North. Tancred a Dinant, a Breton and Norman knight whohas been given land by his new lord, Robert Malet, in return for his services in the battle for York. Now a lord in his own right, he has knights of his own to command and a manor to call home. But all is far from peaceful. Tancred takes his duties as lord seriously and when his tenants are attacked and stolen by Welsh raiders he feels honour bound to protect them. The news comes that his great enemy, Eadger the Aetheling, the hope of the English, has joined with the Welsh to harass the invaders and so Tancred is among the many who follow their sworn lord, in his case Robert, to join up with William the Conqueror’s fearsome armies.
The 'Splintered Kingdom' really is that good. Superbly plotted and well-paced, it is a thought-provoking, richly nuanced and tremendously satisfying book. A vivid, convincing imagining of a tumultuous period in England's history. A book alive with incident, battles, tense last-minute rescues.James Aitcheson writes very well indeed. Scenes are described so vividly that you can imagine them before your eyes. The use of original Old English town names adds to the atmosphere of a great time in distance having passed, added to by the frequent mentions of the ancient roads that criss-cross the land, the legacy of the Romans, as well as the even older hill forts which are reused.
Available to buy from Random House here.