Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder


Charrand, Durham, Harrison & Heath


Osprey Publishing


$24.95 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 208 pages, Hardbound
ISBN: 1-84603-087-0

When one thinks of Vikings, the first thing that comes to mind are dragon-prowed ships full of fearsome, bearded men wielding axes and swords, landing ashore and raiding some hapless village, then hauling off booty and slaves, leaving behind little more than wreckage. Well, that is partially true. Vikings were in many ways just like that and from the late 700s until around the 1100s, these sorts of things happened quite often.

However, there is more to them than just what one hears in the more 'interesting' tales. These men and women also colonized Iceland and Greenland, were probably the first Caucasians to set foot in North America, established a dukedom in Normandy, and were also the bodyguards for the Byzantine emperor.

What is more, Vikings were the best seamen of the time. Their boats were superbly suited for the sorts of traveling they did, and while short on comfort, were able to carry raiding parties, settlers and traders alike throughout their sphere of influence.

The authors take us through three distinct sections of this book. One is the history of the Vikings from their first raids in 793 until they left their colonies in Greenland and North America. It covers their influence in the British Isles, Ireland and Northern Europe.

Next is a section on the Viking 'Hersir' or warrior. This covers the arms and  training and general life style of the Viking warrior. Fortifications and major battles are also covered in this section. It shows the changes in equipment over the years until a well equipped Viking was indistinguishable from any other European warrior.

The final section is the one that I found to be the most interesting as it covers the design and development of Viking longships. Thankfully, it was a custom to bury royalty in these ships and so many of them have come to be preserved. Each one of the different styles and the usual improvements are covered in detail. What makes it even more interesting is that each of these ship types have been reproduced so their sailing characteristics can be studied.

When you add in superlative photographs of various artifacts as well as equally well done drawings, maps and paintings, one is left with an understanding and appreciation of what these people were really like. An excellent book and one that I can recommend for a fascinating read.

Full of quality period photographs, superb art work and maps, Wolfpack is a riveting and superbly written book that you really need to have on your shelves.

July 2006

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