Review: The Sea Wolves. A History Of The Vikings – Lars Brownworth

My version: Paperback
Genre: Non Fiction, History, The Vikings
Crux Publishing
First published: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-909979-12-3
Pages: 269

From the cover:
In AD793, Norse warriors struck the English isle of Lindisfarne and laid waste to it.
Wave after wave of Norse ‘Sea-Wolves’ followed in search of plunder, land, or a glorious death in battle. Much of the British Isles fell before their swords, and the continental capitols of Paris and Aachen were sacked in turn. Turning east, they swept down the uncharted rivers of central Europe, captured Kiev, and clashed with mighty Constantinople, the capitol of the Byzantine empire.
But there is more to the Viking story than brute force. They were makers of law – the term itself comes from an Old Norse word – and they introduced a novel form of trial by jury to England. They were also sophisticated merchants and explorers who settled Iceland, founded Dublin and established a trading network that stretched from Baghdad to the coast of North America.
In ‘The Sea Wolves,’ lars Brownworth brings to life this extraordinary Norse world of epic poets, heroes and travellers, through the stories of the great Viking figures. Among others, Leif The Lucky who discovered a new world, Ragnar Lothbroke the scourge of France, Eric Bloodaxe who ruled in York and the crafty Harald Hardrada illuminate the Saga of the Viking Age – a time which “has passed away and grown dark under the cover of night.”

Another history of the Vikings. That’s what we need! Actually, I’m all for market saturation as far as Vikings are concerned, you can’t have too much Viking in your life, I find. However, I guess we do need to ask ourselves: what is different about this one, that it thinks it should deserve a place on our already overcrowded, all Vikinged-up shelves?

The sea, as in the title, figures large in The Sea Wolves, it was of course the main means the Vikings got around to raid so many places – and perhaps most importantly for a Viking, how they got away with their plunder and slaves afterwards. They weren’t much for long marches overland – unless it was to go between rives, avoiding rocky waterfalls in Russia. It was the sea that brought us the Vikings and much of the activity detailed here has the sea at its heart.

It touches all the known bases, all the usual suspects, though does it in an entertaining, very readable way. I think it would be best suited to someone looking for a good, solid, thorough, sticking-to-the-timeline introduction to all things Viking. Maybe someone who has heard some general stuff and want to go deeper into the Viking world, the Sagas and the plethora of larger-than-life characters that led the raids on eighth, ninth and tenth century Europe – and beyond. He’s not come up with any searing new insights into what made the Vikings tick (if you’ve read a few books already) or why suddenly exploded out of Scandinavia, if indeed they did explode, but he does write with passion, engaging the reader and slips all that book-learnin’ in under the unsuspecting reader’s radar. A good 21st Century up-date to the genre and well worth a place on my shelves.

You can buy The Sea Wolves from The Book Depository

Viking photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

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