Review: The Northmen's Fury: A History of the Viking World

The Northmen's Fury: A History of the Viking World by Philip Parker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book that tries to encompass the whole sweep of Viking history in under 400 pages is going to be packed with information. Philip Parker does an amazing job covering the geographic breadth of the Viking conquests while managing to put "Viking" into the context of early medieval history. But he tackles a subject matter so broad that it's bound to bog down in spots.

So just know that there are parts of the book that read really easily, and parts that can be a slog. The chapters on the Viking's origins, their myths and legends (and boats), the stories of Iceland, Greenland and North America were all excellent. The chapters on the Vikings in France and England, in Russia, and in the Byzantine Empire suffered from an overload of people's names, and place names, and battles here and there. At times it's overwhelming. I had to pause and re-read more than once in those chapters.

There are maps at the start of each chapter that are of some help in following the story, but many of the place names mentioned don't show up on the maps, which was somewhat frustrating.

Despite all of that I enjoyed the book and really learned a lot. For a small example, I had never heard of Greek Fire before reading this book, so now I know where the "wildfire" in the Game of Thrones comes from. For a larger example, I did not realize the geographical reach of the Vikings - through the whole of Europe, into Russia and down to Constantinople as well as north into Greenland, Iceland and east to North America. As "outsiders" to the rest of Europe who appeared "out of nowhere" in their "marauding ships" they struck terror - and that's the extent of what many of us know of them. This book helps provide a better understanding of who the Vikings were and what they accomplished.

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