Daughter of War by S.J.A Turney #Extract #BlogBlitz

An extraordinary, breathless story of the Knights Templar, seen from the bloody inside.
Europe is aflame. On the Iberian Peninsula the wars of the Reconquista rage across Aragon and Castile. Once again, the Moors are gaining the upper hand. Christendom is divided.
Amidst the chaos comes a young knight: Arnau of Valbona. After his Lord is killed in an act of treachery, Arnau pledges to look after his daughter, whose life is now at risk. But in protecting her Arnau will face terrible challenges, and enter a world of Templars, steely knights and visceral combat he could never have imagined.
She in turn will find a new destiny with the Knights as a daughter of war… Can she survive? And can Arnau find his destiny?
An explosive novel of greed and lust, God and blood, Daughter of War marks the beginning of an epic new series from bestseller S.J.A. Turney. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Matt Harffy.

I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for Daughter of War by S.J.A Turney today; my grateful thanks to Ellie Pilcher from Canelo Books for inviting me. Daughter of War is the first book in the exciting new Knights Templar series, and I'm thrilled to be featuring an intriguing extract.

Ebro Basin, Kingdom of Aragon
Year of Our Lord 1198
Arnau de Vallbona spied the enemy at the same time as the rest of the company of Santa Coloma, a roar of righteous ferocity rising from every throat, audible even above the deafening thunder of hooves. The mail coats of the waiting Moors gleamed in the searing Iberian sun with a brilliance that Christian chain shirts never seemed to achieve – a shimmering piscine argent that rippled beautifully. Their lines were an explosion of colour, their banners fascinating – an illegible scrawl of Arabic script beneath images of swords and crowns and crescents and stars. Their helms, combined with chain coifs, revealed so little of their swarthy faces they might easily have been Christians, but for their banners and the quality of their mail. White, hungry eyes shone out from the darkness flanking their helmets’ nose guards as they levelled their maces, hammers, swords, lances – a challenge, a threat.
The arid umber-coloured ground rumbled away beneath Arnau and his companions as the small mounted force of knights and men at arms bore down on the Moorish raiders who had plagued the region this past year and more. The border with the Almohads who controlled Valencia had created a fluid and dangerous region, ever mobile and changing, and raiders were far from uncommon, but this particular force had drawn Aragon’s ire upon the brutal burning of a church in the spring. Pedro II, King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona by the grace of God, had commanded three of his more belligerent nobles to gather a force with which to bring the raiders to justice.
Three companies had rolled south to seek the enemy – that of Pero Ferrández d’Azagra, Lord of Albarracin; of Don Atorella; and of Arnau’s own lord, the aged warrior beloved of Christ, Berenguer Cervelló de Santa Coloma. The ego of the Lord of Albarracin had led him to assume he would achieve overall command of the force, and his pride had been somewhat dented when the king brushed the arrogant noble aside and sent someone entirely different to lead the campaign – a glorious figure who now rode at the head of the cavalry and had drawn Arnau’s eye throughout the ride, inspiring him and quelling his doubts and fears.
The army had chased around the dry, brown borderlands for two weeks, often catching wind that the raiders had been seen in the area recently or were tantalisingly near. Twice, they had even caught up with the enemy, only to lose them again as they deployed the mass ranks of foot soldiers. The raiders were an entirely mounted force, far too quick and manoeuvrable to trap into a full fight with infantry, and on each occasion they melted away into the hills and valleys, whooping, before the Christian force could be brought fully to bear against them. Consequently this time, when the enemy had been spotted, the bulk of the infantry had been left with the wagons and the horses issued forth to join battle or chase the raiders into the swift waters of the Ebro to drown. Albarracin had been scathing, displeased with the peril of matching only cavalry against cavalry, which would cancel out all the advantage in numbers the Christians could claim, though the army’s leader had simply straightened and proclaimed his faith in God and their sureness of victory.
The enemy was not a force of organised, devout Almohad warriors. The Almohads, who had crossed the straits from Africa and imposed a powerful caliphate upon the previously fragmented Moorish taifa states of Iberia, were truly a force to be reckoned with. Zealous and clever, they had all but halted the Christian reconquest for half a century now. Yet it was not they who awaited the cavalry, but a rabble of vicious Moorish raiders who had taken advantage of the rough borderlands.
Arnau had tried throughout the ride to hate the men they would face, and had found that he could only do so if he focused on that aspect. Not that they worshipped a heresy, but that they were raiders who killed and thieved as a matter of course. That they had burned a church with the priest still inside. That made them bad men.
Arnau was as God-fearing a young man as could be found in the county of Barcelona, and he kissed the feet of the Virgin’s statue in the village chapel every day. He had sat vigil in that same sanctuary. He took the Eucharist, and believed with an undying passion in the divinity of the trinity. But he had been born in the days when the Moor’s dominance of the region was still fresh in the minds of all. When the after-effects of four centuries of Moorish control were still being unpicked from society, largely unsuccessfully.
The streets still often carried their Moorish names. The land was irrigated with their ingenious systems. The arches to be seen in grand buildings were still distinctly theirs. Even their delicate bath houses still functioned, though few God-fearing Christians would trust their flesh to such a place, with their cloying steam and rough masseurs. But that great fall of a culture in the region as the Moor had been driven back south had created a strange rift between Christians young and old. Those who had spent their lives under the dominion of the Moor, which had been lifted less than half a century ago, were often still fervent and spiteful in their denunciations. To them the Moors were the soldiers of the Antichrist walking the Earth, who had imposed their twisted beliefs upon the true people of Iberia. Men like Arnau’s father, in fact, seeking a final end to the musulmán and his ways. Men like the French and English lords who sought repeatedly to take sharpened steel to the Holy Land and wrest Jerusalem from the clutches of the Saracen.
Those younger men like Arnau, though, who had been raised among the ashes of that world, lived a more complicated life. They watched the Moors who had remained living as little more than slaves in the new regime, being beaten for failing to adequately farm land that their families had cultivated as free people for hundreds of years. It was hard to hate them. So much easier to pity them. After all, as the fifth Book of Matthew preached:
'You have heard it said ‘an eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth’. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.'
Arnau hardened his heart. Blessed Matthew could afford clemency. He had not been burned in a church by such men. Forget the Moorish boys begging for a crust on street corners, a cross carved in their forehead with their own thumbnail to deny their origin and encourage passing Christians to help them. Forget the grave of the gentle imam in Vallbona that was still spat upon daily, despite his having been a kindly old man who had helped Arnau’s own grandfather to ease his pain in his last years. Forget that Aragon and Catalunya had been their homes for more generations than any man could remember. These men were raiders and priest-burners, beyond pity.
‘Who is your master?’ cried the man leading the charge.
God is our master,’ roared every voice in the company of Santa Coloma on the left flank, as well as those beyond in the other two units that formed the army. And well they might. A man might turn from God’s grace on a drunken night when he thinks he might get away with it, and he may think he serves no master but himself in the half-light of dawn. But riding into battle, truths were hammered home into the heart and mind, and never more so than when a man like this one led the fight. For, even beleaguered as they were, and with diminished numbers after the disastrous defeat at Alarcos, the Templars were ever the heart and soul of the fight against the infidel.
And more so than the fact the men they faced were murderous raiders, he was what cast aside all uncertainty in Arnau… the Templar. All thoughts of charity for the Moor turned to dust as the man leading the charge in the white tunic with the eye-catching red cross couched his lance and roared a passage from the Psalms.
‘A sinner beholdeth a just man and seeketh to slay him. But the Lord shall not forsake him in His hands!’

Many thanks to S.J.A Turney and Canelo Books for providing such a fabulous extract. If it's piqued your interest and you'd like to read more, Daughter of War can be purchased from the following sites,
Amazon( UK)
Kobo (UK)
Google Books (UK)
Apple Books (UK)

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About the Author

S.J.A. Turney is an author of Roman and medieval historical fiction, gritty historical fantasy and rollicking Roman children's books. He lives with his family and extended menagerie of pets in rural North Yorkshire.