I’ve been reading a lot lately and want to share a few awesome books about the vikings and the early medieval period of northern & western European history
The Eaters of the dead
by Michael Crichton
I remember how when I was sixteen I was shitting myself at a premier of the 13th Warrior watching the scenes with savages and bloody battles. Now I wouldn’t risk rewatching this movie and ruining that naive childhood memory. The movie is based on Michael Crichton’s novel – Eaters of the Dead.
The book is absolutely worth reading and it is written in an unusual manner. The story is pieced together from a translation of a notebook of one Arabic wanderer, who in a will of fate was captured by a group of Vikings led by the legendary Beowulf. Later, after learning the language, the main character was fighting back to back with the brave Northmen against vicious monsters.
The book is very easy to read and in case you didn’t know the author is also the creator of a Jurassic Park.
The Long Ships
by Frans G. Bengtsson
This is an exciting story about a Swedish man named Orm the Red, who became a famous sailor and a warrior. He was captured by the Moors the Spanish, fought for Caliph of Cordova, and even traveled to Kievan Rus. The characters of the book are brave men who know their job, value friendships, keep their word, and don’t forget to throw in a joke every now and then. The book is full of humor and it’s one of the reasons I love it.
I read it in one breath and was hoping for more books from the same author but unfortunately, there are none. I will for sure be rereading this book in a few years time.
The Hammer and the Cross Series
by Harry Harrison
This is a trilogy about Shef Sigvardson and all the mystical and exciting challenges on his way. Those books will take you from his young ages to his first love, to him turning into a fearless army leader. There are a lot of historical facts in this novel, including the famous Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons.
Throughout all three books, you will find multiple references to Norse mythology. Harry Harrison has written them together with the historian Tom Shippey. Therefore those books will strike you with their historical authenticity. I have already read the whole trilogy twice and will probably do it again one day.
The Saxon Stories
by Bernard Cornwell
In one of the interviews, Bernard Cornwell said that he has dedicated those books to one of his ancestors Uhtred. He wasn’t as cool or famous as the other legendary characters from Bernard’s thirteen books, but the author decided that Uhtred deserved his own story.
The novel is about Uhtred of Bebbanburg who was born in a noble Saxon family in the 9th century AD. He was supposed to inherit his father’s fort Bebbanburg and a small Northumbrian principality (North East England). However, the famous Ragnar Lothbrok decided on a different faith for Uhtred.
At this point, I’ve finished 9 out of 13 books. One thing I noticed is that the beginning of the story of a young alien is similar to the one in Long Ships, The Hammer and the Cross. None the less it was captivating to read in detail about battles, wars, love stories, and friendships.
Netflix has a 4-season series that is based on this novel called The Last Kingdom. It is hard to compete with the well-known tv show The Vikings, but I still enjoyed this series a lot. I was especially impressed with the casting. All actors looked exactly how I imagined them, except the nun Hild and the priest Beocca.
by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a cool dude and you can see him a lot in different interviews on YouTube. A few of his famous works – a novel American Gods, animated movie Beowulf, fairytale Stardust and many many more. Since a young age, Neil was a huge fan of German-Scandinavian mythology. He has completed his life-long dream when he wrote a book about a pantheon of the northern gods.
This book is an interpretation of the real Norse mythology. It is very thorough, true to history and not boring. If you are interested in Norse Mythology this is an absolute must-read!