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 ...
The theme of this first book in a projected historical fiction series is the Norman conquest of England after the Battle of Hastings. Aitchenson brings excitement and intrigue to a bloody period of medieval history one that is underrepresented in the genre. Set in 1069, three years after Hastings, the book follows a Norman knight, Tancred a Dinant, who is part of the army sent to subdue revolt in Northumbria. However, only Tancred and a few others survive a massacre at the hands of English rebels. Afterward, Tancred falls in with a Norman lord, Vicomte Malet, who sends him and several handpicked knights to deliver a secret message, accompanied by Malet's chaplain, Aelfwold. While Malet struggles to defend his besieged stronghold in Northumbria, Tancred and his men must fight off a rebel fleet and assassins. At the same time, the knight becomes suspicious of Aelfwold and of Lord Malet himself. Savage hand-to-hand battles with swords, axes, and spears rage between the Normans and the English, and only Tancred's loyalty, sense of honor, and strong sword arm may yet see him through the slaughter. Aitcheson, though not yet in the same high strata as Simon Scarrow or Angus Donald, shows great promise as an adventure novelist in this colorful debut.