Clements entertainingly skims through the history of the Vikings across Europe and the North Atlantic, mainly in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. He draws heavily, but sceptically, on the varous sagas as well as more authentic historical records such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The book untangles as well as can be expected the often confusing family relationships of the key players, but one is still left with a whole host of similar first-named characters distinguished only by nicknames ranging from the prosaic (e.g. Harald Greycloak) to the slightly more bizarre (Einar the Paunch-shaker is my favourite, but he is run close by Halli the Sarcastic). The author is inconsistent as to how well he explains these soubriquets; Harald apparently 'had a grey cloak', but it is never made clear whether Einar favoured wobbling his own gut or those of other people. It was disappointing, but probably not surprising, to discover that 'Bluetooth' is a mistranslation and that the teeth of the king in question were more likely to have been black.
Clements also explains well the gradual conversion to Christianity and the long period of its coexistence with the older, and widely tolerated paganism. He is dryly amusing on how deeply converted some of the rulers were. In any event the guiding principle of Viking royal family life seemed to be that if one's brothers or father were still alive then one fought them; if they were dead then one avenged them. It was all very clear cut.
However the book is let down by some appalling typographical errors: mis-spellings, repeated phrases and just plain gibberish. The reader can, I think, always work out what is meant, but one shouldn't have to put up with this in the first place.
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