Saturday, December 03, 2011

Book Review: Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking, by Michael Burr

Guest post by T.R.

Harald Hardrada is one of the most infamous Viking leaders of history, whose death is the marker for the end of the Age of the Viking. Those who study medieval history will likely have heard of him, and following his exploits in this book will be of great interest to those who know his history. That said, those who haven’t studied history can still enjoy this book, but it is intended for a very specific audience.

The easiest way to recommend this book is to simply ask: Do you like Conan the Barbarian? If the answer is yes, then you will enjoy this book. The book is the exact kind of story that Conan fans will love. The men are all hard-headed barbarians with more testosterone than your average biker gang. Meanwhile, all of the women are either nymphomaniacs or nuns, with no middle ground. This story is for men, obviously, with rape, murder, and political schemes as common themes throughout. Women will likely find the story far less engaging than the men. Only a few pages into the story, the horde of Vikings pillages and rapes its way through a convent. While this scene accurately portrays the kind of brutality that Vikings spread throughout history, it may be difficult for some younger or more sensitive readers.

Despite the title, Harald Hardrada is actually not the main character of the story. The book mostly follows Hardrada’s thrall, a cripple with the title, “The Scraeling.” It tells the story of his life as the brain behind Hardrada’s brawn, and his role in the many important events of Hardrada’s life. His intellect proves to be of great importance to Hardrada’s success, despite his mixed feelings about the man. Most readers will feel sympathetic to his cause even though some parts of his story seem a little unbelievable at times.

While this book won’t be considered great literature, it is still an interesting and compelling read for those who can handle the subject matter or for those who are interested in the history of one of the greatest (or worst, depending on your viewpoint) Viking leaders of all time.


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