Title: The Splintered Kingdom (Conquest #2)
Author: James Aitcheson
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: August 5, 2014
The brilliant second novel in James Aitcheson’s trilogy of the Norman Conquest of England.
Summer, 1070. Renowned for his valor in the battle for York, Tancred a Dinant is now a lord in his own right, with knights of his own to command and a manor to call home in the turbulent Welsh borderlands. But his hard-fought gains are soon threatened, as a coalition of enemies both old and new prepares to march against King William.
With English, Welsh and Viking forces gathering, and war looming, the Normans are forced to make common cause with some unlikely allies in defence of their newly conquered realm. For Tancred, meanwhile, there are also enemies closer to home: Norman barons envious of his fame, who regard him as a threat to their own power and who are only too eager to see him brought low.
Amidst the turmoil, Tancred is chosen to spearhead a perilous expedition into the heart of Wales. Success will bring him glory beyond his dreams. Failure will mean the ruin of the reputation that he has worked so hard to forge. As shield-walls clash and the kingdom burns, not only is his destiny at stake, but also that of England itself.
A gripping tale of battle, honor, and vengeance, The Splintered Kingdom is an epic saga of the struggle for England—and through it, the western world.
“An exciting and suspenseful post-Norman conquest saga filled with ambition, greed and betrayals...history buffs and adventure fans will definitely want to read all the exciting tales in this saga.” - Fresh Fiction
“A vigorously written, well researched tale of post-conquest England told through Norman eyes, with a rich, detailed setting, plenty of exciting battles, and a protagonist/narrator who is a real pleasure to read.” - Historical Novels Review
Kayla: Hi James, thank you so much for stopping by Bibliophilia, Please! Please tell us a little bit about The Splintered Kingdom in your own words but with a Twitter twist - 140 characters or less.
James Aitcheson: England, 1070. Shield-walls clash, a kingdom burns and a Norman knight seeks vengeance in the violent aftermath of the Battle of Hastings.
Kayla: Do we have to read Sworn Sword before reading The Splintered Kingdom?
James: Each installment in the Conquest Series is intended as a standalone novel, so no, you don’t necessarily have to read Sworn Sword first, although it might help you to understand who Tancred, my protagonist, is and where he has come from.
Tancred is the narrator of the series, and it’s through his eyes that we witness the wars of conquest, as the Normans struggle to pacify England and bring it under their heel. An ambitious knight fighting in William the Conqueror’s army, he’s hungry to build a reputation for himself, and he’s also looking for revenge after his lord is murdered by English rebels.
His quest for honour, glory and vengeance lies at the heart of the overarching story that links the novels. I’ve tried to ensure, though, that you can jump in at any point in the series and enjoy each book independently of the others.
Kayla: What was your favorite piece of information that you found while doing research for your books?
James: When I’m researching I try to go back whenever I can to the primary sources to get an insight into the preoccupations of people living at the time. My favourite piece of information that I turned up during the course of writing The Splintered Kingdom comes from a twelfth-century chronicler called Gerald of Wales, who as well as being a prominent churchman was also a prolific writer with diverse interests in everything from history to geography, mythology and folklore. (He’s also the only medieval writer who has been able to make me laugh out loud.)
Gerald writes about how his countrymen the Welsh were obsessed with cleaning their teeth, and how they would constantly be rubbing them with green hazel shoots and woolen cloth to keep them white. He also tells us that they would never eat warm, never hot food because they were worried that the heat might damage their teeth.
I find these sorts of details fascinating, because they run counter to popular assumptions about life in the Middle Ages. We tend to accept that people were dirty and foul-smelling and would have had rotten teeth, and that they weren’t overly concerned with hygiene or appearance, but that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Kayla: Which books or authors would you say have affected or inspired you the most?
James: My reading tastes are incredibly varied, and I take my influences from a wide range of genres. In terms of historical fiction, authors who have particularly inspired me include C.J. Sansom, Bernard Cornwell, Robert Harris, Barry Unsworth and Kevin Crossley-Holland. It was actually Crossley-Holland’s evocation of the Welsh borderlands in his novel The Seeing Stone that inspired me to set The Splintered Kingdom in that part of the country as well.
Outside the historical genre, meanwhile, I’m a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk, Douglas Adams and Margaret Atwood, who is undoubtedly my favourite author. Her facility with language and metaphor I find quite incredible, while her breadth of vision never ceases to amaze me.
Kayla: What are you currently reading?
James: I’m currently reading The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel García Márquez, a fictionalised account of the last days of Simón Bolívar, the liberator of Spanish America. It’s a wonderfully nuanced and melancholic portrait of a man forced from power and doomed to exile, haunted everywhere he goes by reminders of his former glory.
Kayla: Which upcoming novel are you most looking forward to reading?
James: I’m looking forward to Lamentation by C. J. Sansom, the next book in his Shardlake series set in England during the reign of Henry VIII, which I believe is due to be published this autumn.
Kayla: Finally, do you have any upcoming projects of your own that we can look forward to?
James: I’ve already written the third book in the Conquest Series, Knights of the Hawk, which with any luck will be published in the US in 2015. Set one year on from The Splintered Kingdom, it sees Tancred seizing control of his own destiny and venturing forth on a private quest that will take him beyond English shores for the first time in the series.
I’m currently working on a new novel set during the Norman Conquest. A spin-off of sorts from the Tancred novels, it will feature an entirely new cast of characters and tackle some different themes. It’s still in its early stages, so I can’t reveal too much about it just yet, but I’m already very excited about it.
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About the Author
James Aitcheson was born in Wiltshire, England, in 1985 and studied History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he developed a special interest in the medieval period. He is also the author of Sworn Sword.
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