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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neil Oliver's great book
Before I read this record of the Vikings, I knew very little about them as a group, besides the general idea that they had invaded England. Now I know that, for example, William the Conqueror was one of the many Viking groups who spread across Europe from Scandinavia to Constantinople in the East, and across England, Scotland, Ireland and the Orkneys, besides Eric the...
Published 16 months ago by Persephone

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I really enjoyed the TV series "Vikings" and looked forward to reading the book to get more detail. But when I got to page 11 and read "Just as Emperor Penguins remain to endure the Arctic winter, when all other warm-blooded creatures flee southwards, so the Saami had stubbornly retained a toehold on their demesne throughout the period of the last glacial"...
Published 11 months ago by Peter Garden


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, 20 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Vikings (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed the TV series "Vikings" and looked forward to reading the book to get more detail. But when I got to page 11 and read "Just as Emperor Penguins remain to endure the Arctic winter, when all other warm-blooded creatures flee southwards, so the Saami had stubbornly retained a toehold on their demesne throughout the period of the last glacial" I stopped. And this was shortly after Mr Oliver had told us about his epic sailing trip to South Orkney in the sub-Antarctic where no doubt he learnt that penguins are only found in the southern hemisphere. Two factual errors in one sentence makes me think that these are not typos - everyone knows surely that Polar Bears, Arctic Foxes, Musk Oxen and many other warm-blooded creatures live through the Arctic winter and do not flee southwards in migration. This looks more like "mis-statement" caused by a fundamental lack of knowledge of the far north where the Vikings voyaged with such skill. I struggled on for another chapter but gave up with the overwhelming feeling that if he can get such basics wrong how can I be sure of the rest of what he writes? The spell was broken.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neil Oliver's great book, 11 April 2013
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This review is from: Vikings (Hardcover)
Before I read this record of the Vikings, I knew very little about them as a group, besides the general idea that they had invaded England. Now I know that, for example, William the Conqueror was one of the many Viking groups who spread across Europe from Scandinavia to Constantinople in the East, and across England, Scotland, Ireland and the Orkneys, besides Eric the Red's famous journey across the Atlantic to the edge of North America.

Oliver's style is lively. He places himself inside the events which he records, imagining for example a young girl in a red dress running around a Danish port, and vividly recording the daily lives of the marauding invaders. He explains how the Vikings took on many of the characteristics of the countries where they moved, fitting smoothly into other societies: besides of course demanding obedience by bitter fighting. A Viking could never be separated from his axe and knife. But they are the forerunners of most of the European societies which we know today: including our own in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 24 Dec 2012
By 
K. Fiske "Whistfull" (Essex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vikings (Hardcover)
If you love the Vikings this book has so much info.
Great pictures and well written. Good present, go me out of a pickle!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible authoritative history, 13 May 2014
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This review is from: Vikings (Kindle Edition)
I progressed directly from Neil Oliver's "History of Ancient Britain" to this book and find the same standard of totally readable and informative history. I like the way the author describes and explains archaeology, the way he links finds across times and countries helping us readers keep the wider picture in view throughout. The personal touch as he describes his own visits to sites enhances the readability. For me, a highly recommended book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So interesting, 26 May 2013
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Mrs. Diana G. Logan "dodo" (sheffield uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vikings (Hardcover)
A birthday gift for my husband. He loves it.And it is so full of interesting information, even to one who is not particularly interested in history
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice to see another fab and uptodate book on all things Viking, 4 Feb 2013
This review is from: Vikings (Hardcover)
This is another detailed, fascinating, illuminating, non-boring book and I think is a real complete history of the Vikings in that just like the TV series Neil really investigates the origins of the Viking people before they became known as Vikings. So we learn how they migrated and occupied early Scandinavia during the bronze and iron ages, how they had local chieftans and how who owned the most metal was king. We look at how early burial mounds preceded to the more familiar boat-shaped grave markings and soon developed into full scale boat burials such as the Gokstad ship.

We then learn about how each of the key viking people from Norway, Sweden and Denmark made their mark in the world, with the Swedes discovering and founding Russia, the Norwegians creating a great slave trade linking Dublin in Ireland to Istanbul in the East and of course the Danes who harassed the early French (Frank) empire, sailed and raided around the spanish coast and tops of north africa before too landing and forging a great connection in Istandbul by provided the Holy Roman Emporer with the finest of body guards before of course forging a path of war to Britain and all it's anglo-saxon riches.

We come across great characters of the time such as Cnut the Great, Harald Hardrada, Floki who discovered Iceland, Eirik the Red and his son Lief the Lucky who discovered Greenland and then Vinland in North America, Harald Finehair and Harald Bluetooth, St Olaf, the Anglo-saxon rulers such as Alfred the Great, his grandson Athelstan, Ethelred the Unready, the unfortunate Harold Godwinson, and so many more. It really is a truly enlightening and enjoyable read and kept me occupied for many months. It is a superb partner for the BBC series which is available on DVD.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A concentrated read, 2 Feb 2013
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H. W. V. King - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vikings (Hardcover)
Love Neil Oliver's style but found this not the most flowing of works. V interesting if you concentrate on the work and a super overview
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vikings, 1 Feb 2013
This review is from: Vikings (Hardcover)
Superb read highly recomended,neil oliver brings to life how brave and ingenious these people were brilliant explorers and totaly fearless
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vikings by Neil Oliver - "Like a thunderbolt from heaven", 10 Nov 2012
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Red on Black - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vikings (Kindle Edition)
There is something about Neil Oliver that deeply divides the audience. Look at the cover of this book accompanying his BBC Series "Vikings - A History" and he looks like an extra out of "Poldark" all windswept and interesting but slightly preposterous. It's a shame since as a populariser of history Neil Oliver brings a highly energetic and engaging approach. This is completed by a Scottish burr with his enunciated vowels firing off sweeping statements and emphasised by dramatic hand movements. As an archaeologist by trade he uses real objects to tell us his story of the past and with the Vikings there is a lively tale to chronicle.

The Vikings suffer from "Kirk Douglas" syndrome. Everyone has seen the film of the same name co-starring Tony Curtis with that wretched horn call blowing every two seconds. It has created a popular image of a band of sea borne hairy marauders dedicated to a range of pagan God's, famous for rape, fire and pillage and general debauchery; all this leading to a glorious passage to Valhalla and probably more of the same. Granted the film did avoid the awful historical cliché of the wearing of horned helmets but enough mead was drunk out of horns to raise shares in Bass and it was of course pure Hollywood. Oliver's book is about separating out the myth from reality, discovering the real Vikings from their own point of view and in his words to fill a gap. As he states what is needed is "a biography of the Vikings", since the inescapable fact faces any historian of the Vikings that "with the exception of the rune stones, which anyway provide little more than names and boasts" not a word of (Viking history) ...was written by the Vikings themselves". There is of course the legends which later generations of Scandinavians constantly reinvented but as Oliver points out the earliest Icelandic sagas are a product of the 12th Century and historically unreliable. Key contemporary sources particularly in England are monastic such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which portray the Vikings as a plague to cleanse sin. This line taps into the concept of "an angry God" and figures most in the letters of the scholar Alcuin who wrote after the infamous Lindesfarne attack of 793 AD "either this is the beginning of greater tribulation, or else the sins of the inhabitants have called it upon them. Truly it has not happened by chance, but it is a sign that it was well merited by someone".

Lack of written sources plays to Oliver's strength namely the much richer archaeological record that he uses to great effect. The examination of the ancient Hjortspring boat gives a rich explanation of the later dynamics of Viking sea vessels and raiding, as does the discovery of the five wrecks in harbour at Skuldelev in Denmark. His analysis of the land shortage as a prime mover of Viking raids is well done and convincing. This, combined with the requisite levels of ambition and opportunity created an unstoppable Viking force not least after 830 AD in Britain when raids undertaken by the best and most portable fighters of their age decimate large parts of the English South. By 850 AD the Vikings were wintering on the Isle of Thanet off Kent's East Coast. Other cultural factors are examined in fascinating detail including the rhythms of winter and preparations the mind-numbing chill in Viking society. Similarly the level of Viking expansion to North Africa, Russia the Middle East and America is well told, particularly the trade in the East for silk and slaves. The book itself very much follows the narrative TV series with an almost verbatim script account of the discovery of 35 Bronze Age carvings in Faro under a sheet of thin ice which so enthused Oliver in the first TV episode or tracing him walking around modern day Istanbul and following in the Vikings footsteps. Therefore despite the wealth of detail this not an academic history. Oliver's style is often chatty and anecdotal, and it is clear that first and foremost he wants to tell a story as opposed to a provide a revisionist history. Perhaps this is good thing since solid histories of the Vikings are in ready supply not least the superb single volume by the late great Professor Gwyn Jones, a Welshmen ironically writing from a country that the Vikings did not overly trouble. As a written accompaniment to the TV series this book has real merit and high readability. If you like the feel of a book in your hand it serves its purpose well but does beg the question whether waiting for the DVD could be a more profitable avenue as that does succeed in bringing things more visually to life than the descriptive archaeology contained in these pages. It is your choice.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Educational and historically significant., 10 May 2013
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Informative and well written with endless historical facts that I was previously unaware of. Neil Oliver has condensed years of research into an easily readable format.
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