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Literature / The Conquest Series

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The Conquest Series is a Historical Fiction series by English author James Aitcheson. Beginning a few years after the Battle of Hastings, the series portrays the events of the tumultuous period from a Norman perspective. The protagonist and narrator, Tancred a Dinant, is an honorable Breton knight who is sworn to a Norman lord and completely believes in King Guillaume's cause. The story begins in 1069, when Tancred and his liege lord Robert de Commines are sent north to subdue the rebellious province of Northumbria. After Lord Robert is killed in a surprise attack by the English, Tancred uncovers a conspiracy that threatens to topple the Normans and undo their conquest. As if the rebellious English and political intrigue weren't enough, there are other enemies who are beginning to sense cracks in the Norman armor...

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There are currently three books in the series:

  • Sworn Sword
  • The Splintered Kingdom
  • Knights of the Hawk

Due to the setting, the first-person narration, the realistic presentation of early medieval violence and society, and the use of contemporary place names, readers of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories will be in very familiar territory.


This series provides examples of:

  • Badass Beard: Lord Robert has one; a somewhat rare trait among Normans.
  • Badass Moustache: The facial hair style of choice for most Welsh warriors.
  • Barbarian Longhair: Many Northumbrian Saxons have gone back to wearing their hair like this, probably due to the heavy Danish influence in the area.
  • Big Good: Tancred sees King Guillaume this way.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Earl Hugues and his detachment pull this at the Battle of Mechain. While it saves the lives of Tancred and a good amount of his men, it isn't enough to win the battle.
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  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Father Ælfwold.
  • Blood Knight: Tancred has definite shades of this, though he's fairly subdued about it.
  • Brutal Honesty: Wace's knack for this has cost him a few friends, though Tancred greatly values it.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Due to the setting.
  • Cool Horse: Tancred's horse, Rollo. And later on, Nihtfeax.
  • The Conspiracy: When several Norman lords are killed in surprise attacks within a short period of time, it becomes clear that the events are not coincidence.
  • Dawn of an Era: Though for many of the English it's more like End of an Age.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The colors of the Malet family are black and yellow, and Robert Malet usually dresses in black attire. However, they are one of the more honorable houses among the Norman nobility.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Maredudd avenging his brother and killing an enemy king, despite being fatally wounded himself.
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  • Failure Knight: In some of his bleaker moments, Tancred considers himself this, due to his failure to protect several people who were important to him as well as his manor, Earnford.
  • Famed In-Story: Tancred becomes this in book 2, after tales of his exploits at the Battle of Eoferwic become widespread. This proves to be a double edged sword, as it makes him an object of envy from other Norman noblemen.
  • Flashback: Several sequences in the first book explore Tancred's background, early life, and relationship with Robert de Commines.
  • Four-Star Badass: Robert de Commines, Guillaume Malet, and eventually Tancred himself.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Tancred has his moments.
  • Good Shepherd: Father Erchembald.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: King Guillaume is noted to have one of these, at one point killing a retainer with a single blow because the latter suggested that they bribe the Danes off rather than fight them.
  • Heroic BSoD: Tancred suffers one of these after escaping Welsh captivity and finding that his manor, Earnford, has been destroyed and most of the inhabitants mercilessly slain.
  • Horny Vikings: While the Danes have been Christianized by this point, their warriors still bear a good deal of resemblance to the Vikings of previous generations. They correctly do not wear horned helmets, however.
  • The Idealist: While many Normans are primarily motivated by the desire for wealth, land, and increased status, Tancred wholeheartedly believes in King Guillame's right to the throne of England.
  • It's Personal: Tancred bears a personal grudge against Eadgar the Ætheling, who in his mind is responsible for the death of his lover, Oswynn. He speaks and acts as if Eadgar personally murdered her, though in truth she was really just collateral damage from the inevitable sack that followed when the Northumbrians retook Dunholm. The feeling is reciprocated by Eadgar himself. After Tancred plays a key role in the Normans' recapture of Eoferwic and wounds the Ætheling himself, he puts out a bounty on Tancred's head.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Tancred could be considered a Reconstruction. He is a genuinely good man who is motivated by a desire for justice, but he knows when to be pragmatic and avoids falling into Stupid Good territory.
  • The Lancer: Eudo and Wace are this to Tancred. Tancred himself played this role to Lord Robert.
  • Last-Name Basis: Since there are a decent amount of "Roberts" and "Williams" among the Norman nobility, many of them are referred to primarily by their surnames.
  • Last of His Kind: Eadgar Ætheling, the leader of the Northumbrian rebellion, is the sole surviving member of the House of Wessex.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: At the Battle of Mechain, the rebel Welsh princes Maredudd and Ithel break formation and charge one of the enemy kings. This costs the princes their lives and the Normans the battle.
  • Locked Away in a Monastery:
    • Tancred's parents died when he was still young, so he was raised by his uncle. Being a minor lord with too many mouths to feed, his uncle sent Tancred to a monastery as soon as they would accept him. He eventually left, as the life of a monk was decidedly not for him.
    • Also the fate of Harold Godwinson's widow, Eadgyth.
  • The Lost Lenore: Throughout the first and second books, Tancred often torments himself about not being able to save Oswynn.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Tancred and his men have this reaction when they realize they've been led into a massive Welsh ambush, which kicks off the disastrous Battle of Mechain.
  • The Mole: Tancred discovers that Father Ælfwold had been secretly feeding intel to the Northumbrians. Had he not been thwarted, he would have divulged the location of Harold Godwinson's remains, and given the rebellion a new rallying point.
  • My Girl Back Home: In book 2, Leofrun plays this role to Tancred after he leaves to campaign in Wales.
  • My Greatest Failure: Tancred's failure to save Lord Robert's life at Dunholm continually haunts him.
  • My People Doth Protest Too Much: Tancred is a Breton, but his allegiance is firmly with the Normans. When Duke Conan of Brittany rebelled against Guillaume and was brutally crushed, Tancred had very little sympathy. Recalling the incident, he simply remarked that Conan was a fool to think that he could overcome Guillaume.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: The way Tancred feels about Earnford, the main town of the rural area he is made lord of.
  • Off Screen Moment Of Awesome: Guillaume Malet, Tancred's second liege lord, is already well known due to his bravery at the Battle of Hastings, which occurred before the series begins.
  • Only in It for the Money: At the battle of York, the Danish mercenaries break and retreat far sooner than the English rebels. With no motivation beyond gold, they had no qualms about minimizing their losses when the battle swung in the Normans' favor.
  • Perspective Flip: Much of the fiction set in this era tells the story from the English POV, while this series explores the motives of the Normans and their efforts to deal with the bloody aftermath of Hastings.
  • Posthumous Character: Lord Robert is killed very early on in the first book, but he still has a consistent presence in Tancred's flashback sequences.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: While Tancred had no interest in living a monastic life, he's still fairly devout.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Lord Robert de Commines, the Malets, and Tancred (for the most part) after he is made a lord.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Maredudd is just barely the blue to Ithel's red.
  • Secret Keeper: Malet knows the location of Godwineson's body, but will not divulge it for fear of fanning the flames of English rebellion.
  • Spiritual Successor: to The Saxon Stories.
  • The Starscream: After Tancred is put in charge of a military campaign into Wales, the envious lord Berengar fitz Warin starts playing this role to him almost immediately.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: See Maredudd and Ithel's Leeroy Jenkins entry above.
  • Taking You with Me: At the battle of Mechain, the Welsh king Rhiwallon personally kills Ithel and fatally wounds Maredudd, though the latter manages to kill Rhiwallon before succumbing to his wounds.
  • Token Enemy Minority: Maredudd and Ithel, the Welsh princes who join forces with the Normans to oust the current rulers of Wales.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: After being given a lordship between books 1 and 2, Tancred becomes notably more arrogant, brash, and petulant. This lands him on thin ice with his superiors on more than one occasion.
  • Victory Is Boring: After experiencing a year of relative peace after the Battle of Eoferwic, Tancred begins to grow restless and dissatisfied about living the quiet life. He later comes to reflect on how foolish this mindset was after being called out to war again experiencing its hardships anew.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Guillaume Malet had this relationship with Harold Godwineson, obviously before Hastings.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Berengar's willingness to slaughter Welsh infants is what causes his tensions with Tancred to finally boil over.
  • Young Gun: Earl Hugues "The Wolf" d'Avranches is already a respected war leader despite being in his early twenties.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Naturally, the Northumbrian rebels, as well as Father Ælfwold, have this attitude.
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