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Knowing your Olafs from your Sveins,
This review is from: A Brief History of the Vikings (Brief Histories) (Paperback)
Confronted by the endless complexities of Viking interactions, whether by war or marriage, as much as by their contact with far-flung lands and civilisations, Jonathan Clements has done an admirable job in maintaining our interest while attempting to draw out coherent themes.
After an introductory chapter on Norse myths and belief systems, Clements has adopted a broadly geographical approach to his subject. Thus there are chapters on Viking expeditions west to Greenland and the fabled Vinland, and on their remarkable ventures down the rivers of Russia to Byzantium and Baghdad. In between there are chapters on the succession of raids on the British Isles that led to Danelaw in the eastern half of England, and a running theme of the way factionalism played out in what we today know as Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
If at times the fighting, betrayals and inter-marrying threaten to blur in the mind, that's just the way Viking history is - complicated. Yes, there are a few typographical errors, but nothing to justify the reaction of some reviewers here. Clements writes with commendable style and humour and includes a proper index and bibliography. The handful of photos aren't especially enlightening, but are well reproduced and, best of all, Clements has included dynastic tables for each kingdom that are a considerable help in unscrambling people and dates.
Not introductory, then, so much as a short book containing all the average non-specialist reader will want to know about the Vikings and their impact on our history and imagination.