It is the year 922 and Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, the Caliph of Bagdad's ambassador to the King of the Volga Bulgars, finds himself practically shanghaied by a group of Norse Rus, and sent on an odyssey toward danger and adventure. Arriving at their northern homeland, Ibn Fadlan finds that at the core of the Viking fear of misty nights is the fear of a very real danger - the Wendol, the Eaters of the Dead. Stalking out of the misty night and killing with impunity, this northern nightmare has haunted hunted the Vikings even into their own homes. And now, a Viking hero by the name of Buliwyf is sailing to the kingdom of Rothgar, where he and his entourage of eleven Viking warriors and one foreigner (the unlucky Ibn Fadlan) will pit their steel against this ancient evil.
OK, where do I start with this one? In point of fact there was a real Ahmad ibn-al-'Abbas ibn Rashid ibn-Hammad ibn-Fadlan who ventured up the Volga River, and met with various peoples in tenth century Russia. Michael Crichton, that most excellent of storytellers, takes his travel story, and expands it, inserting him into a retelling of the Beowulf saga. As an interesting medium, the author gives his story the form of a modern translation of a newly discovered Ibn Fadlan manuscript.
Now, I must admit that this form of story telling does begin in a dry and academic tone that can be off-putting. But, if you just hold on, you will find the story becoming more and more interesting, finally holding you stuck to the edge of your seat. It has a lot of action, adventure, horror, and sex. (Yes, there is a lot of sporting between the sexes in this book, but the details are left to the readers imagination.)
I found this to be a wonderfully gripping story that kept me up late at night, just to find out what happened next. I loved this fantasy/real adventure story, and highly recommend it to you!