History in Review
The Vikings: Wolves of War
By Martin Arnold. Critical Issues in History. (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Lanham, Maryland: 2007. Pg. xi, 149. 10 Maps, 11 Figures.) ISBN 10: 0-7425-3398-0. ISBN 13: 978-0-7425-3398-1.
Reviewed by Herbert White - April 20, 2007
The Vikings: Wolves of War is a remarkable and up-to-date survey of the Viking Age, covering both Viking history and culture. Written by Martin Arnold, who is currently a senior lecturer in early Medieval Literature at the University of Hull, the book is authoritative yet written in an accessible and highly readable narrative style. Within the pages of this gripping account, Arnold presents an overview of the Vikings, detailing not only their savagery and bloody rituals, but also their artistic and innovative sides.
The text is organized into two main parts. The first part deals with Viking culture, and the second with the 300-year history of the Vikings, beginning in the late eighth century. The section on Viking culture covers a wealth of information including Viking military tactics and religious beliefs and practices. As for the section on Viking history, it is organized geographically, with chapters dealing with Viking activities in The British Isles, Europe, Scandinavia, and the North Atlantic settlements, namely Iceland and Greenland. Chapter notes are included at the end of each chapter. A brief, but exciting bibliography of books on Viking Age Studies is also included. Combined this bibliography, and the endnotes, will serve as a solid foundation from which to pursue this incredible topic in greater detail.
The Vikings: Wolves of War not only serves as an excellent primer on the Viking Age, but it is also a ripping good read! Arnold's narrative style is lively and engrossing, and you can easily forget that you are reading a history book and not a novel. While not as comprehensive as other books on this topic such as A History of the Vikings by Gwyn Jones, it is much more readable, and more up-to-date. The Vikings: Wolves of War will find a ready audience among scholars and lay-readers with an interest in the Vikings and the age they lived in.
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