[Review] The Viking Heart: How Scandinavians Conquered The World by Arthur Herman

Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021.
Genre: Nonfiction. Scandinavian history.
Pages: 512.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: History readers, especially those with an interest in Viking history.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.


The Viking Heart begins with the Norsemen raiding the monastery at Lindisfarne, England in 793 AD.

One of the things I learned in this book is they did not call themselves Vikings. They were known as Northmen or Norsemen. They were raiders. They were pagans and seamen. Their aim was the element of surprise. They originated from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. The country of Finland raided the coast of Russia. Whereas, the other Scandinavian countries traveled to the German coast, or further west, and in some cases as far as Baghdad.

The attack at Lindisfarne was not the first raid, but it is one they are infamous.

They were thieves. They attacked churches and monasteries, stealing gold and precious artifacts.

The Viking Heart does not explore only the Viking Age. It shares the history and plight of the Scandinavian countries until the present age.

My Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and these are my thoughts.

I wanted to read the book to learn about the particular age of the Viking conquests. I did not know the history of these countries until the present era is included (I am not as interested in reading about this later history.)

What I enjoyed about The Viking Heart:

  1. For the author, the history is a work or a writing of love. Arthur Herman’s ancestry is Norwegian. This means he creates an enthusiasm in the book.
  2. I learned several things. Some examples, The Northmen were dependent on the element of surprise for a positive conquest. The Northmen were violent and brutal, but no more so than other people groups during this time period. They did not consider that they were one people group. They were different countries with similarities.
  3. One of my favorite time periods to read is the Anglo-Saxon period. Apart of this era is the Viking raids and influence. The Viking Heart satisfies my curiosity about this historical time.
  4. I did not know until reading this book what an impact the Northmen had on Ireland. I thought they had targeted the coastline of Ireland, but I have learned all of Ireland was impacted.
  5. I enjoyed reading about the female warriors.
  6. I learned how the Norsemen began slave routes. It was a route that included Kiev, Prague, and the British Isles.
  7. I enjoyed reading about the Shetland and Orkney isles, plus the Isle of Man.
  8. The effect of Christianity on the Scandinavian countries.
  9. The later decades of the 19th century when Norway and Sweden immigrants came to America.
  10. The Viking Heart is engaging and interesting.
  11. The Viking Heart includes archaeology, and DNA science.

[Review] The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun by J. R. R. Tolkien

Publisher and Publication Date: Mariner Books. First Mariner edition 2010. First published 2009.
Genre: Fantasy fiction. Poetry.
Pages: 381.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Tolkien readers. Readers of myths and legends. Readers of Old Norse poetry.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

J. R. R. Tolkien Goodreads author page.

The Tolkien Estate, the official site.

This link is to read an article about Tolkien from the Smithsonian Magazine: How J. R. R. Tolkien Came to Write the Stories of The Rings of Power.


The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun is Tolkien’s version of ancient Dane stories. The Danes were an ancient Northern Germanic people who lived in what we now call the modern countries of Denmark and the southernmost area of Sweden. Their time period is roughly 500 BC to 1050 AD.

His story is told in two poems. Lay of the Völsungs. Lay of Gudrún.

These poems are from the heroic age of Vikings, after 700 AD.

They are in verse form, an old 8-line stanza. And each line is 3 to 4 words.

Even though there are old sources that these new poems loosely came from, it is stated in the Foreword: “He scarcely ever (to my knowledge) referred to them.” This book of Tolkien’s’ poems is not to be thought as “translations” of the previous. They are new. Tolkien called them “New Lays.” Tolkien possibly wrote them in the 1930s.

My Thoughts:

Reading through the book is the easy part. Understanding what I have read is difficult because I have little knowledge of Dane history, culture, society, and literature. I focused on reading for pleasure. I have since reread the Foreword and Introduction and this has helped. In addition, there is a commentary chapter after each of the two poems. My advice is to read these features.

I feel like I’ve been on an adventure reading these two poems.

The poems are dramatic, masculine, vivid, physical, and haunting. The words in the poems are purposeful in carrying the serious dark nature of their world.

I don’t consider the poems to be ethereal or romantic.

The poems are not to be compared to Tolkien’s well-known Lord of the Rings books.

Some of my favorite lines are in reference to the dragon, Fafnir. I love reading about dragons!

I believe this is a perfect book to read aloud. I’d love to hear it read through Audible.

Themes in the poems are injustice, betrayal, death, marriage, courage, and bravery.

[Review] The Flight of Anja, The Vinland Viking Saga Book 2 by Tamara Goranson

Publisher and Publication Date: One More Chapter, HarperCollins. June 3, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 400.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book from One More Chapter, HarperCollins and NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers of the Viking age in the 11th century North America upper coastline.
Rating: Okay.

Tamara Goranson’s author page at Goodreads.

Tamara Goranson’s Website.

Link for the book @ Amazon. The Kindle price is .99 on this day.

Link @ One More Chapter.


The Flight of Anja is the story of Anja Freydisdöttir. She has been raised by Freydis the sister of Leif Erickson (A.D. 970-1025). He was a Norse explorer.

Freydis is an important character in the start of the story. She is the backbone, strength, and contributing factor to the adventure of Anja. Freydis is strong, determined, resourceful, brave, courageous, and a loner. She is heroic.

Anja is a mini-Freydis. As the story progresses, I will see more of Freydis in her.

The story begins in Greenland and travels to Vinland (a coastal area of North America)/Newfoundland.

The time period is the 11th century.

My Thoughts:

On my own, I found out information about the name Vinland, who the Beothuk people were, Leif Erickson, and other notable history.

The Flight of Anja is book two in the series. I have not read book one which probably would help me understand the background and other gaps in the story.

One of the main problems I had with the story is I didn’t always know what part of the world I was reading about. What I mean is what and where is Vinland? And when Anja travels on a Viking ship, I thought the destination (for a while) was in Norway or another Scandinavian country. So, I was lost. I don’t like to be lost

Freydis is a huge character. She is an interesting character. She is difficult to switch away from and towards Anja. I was not ready to leave Freydis.

For half (or more) of the book the tone and pace are a mix of on the edge of your seat-engaging-serious-suspicious-tense. Then the tone switches and an additional theme is introduced. There is a lag in between.

I had a difficult time becoming invested in the character of Anja. And for reasons I have yet to fully discover beyond the previous above statements in this section. It is unlike me to not have more description to give. In brief, this book is just not for me.

(Review) The Last King: England: The First Viking Age, The Ninth Century Book 1 by M J Porter

Publisher and Publication Date: Independently published. 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 314.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: Kindle Unlimited program.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction who like the Anglo-Saxon period in England.
Rating: Okay.

Link @ Amazon


AD 874

They sent three hundred warriors to kill one man. It wasn’t enough.

Mercia lies broken but not beaten, her alliance with Wessex in tatters.

Coelwulf, a fierce and bloody warrior, hears whispers that Mercia has been betrayed from his home in the west. He fears no man, especially not the Vikings sent to hunt him down.

To discover the truth of the rumors he hears, Coelwulf must travel to the heart of Mercia, and what he finds there will determine the fate of Mercia, as well as his own.

My Thoughts:

This is my 14th year in reviewing books. The Last King is the first book I’ve read that uses profanity as a predicted form for the dialogue.
I’ve read many books with characters using profanity. In The Last King, profanity is used so often that I expected each page to have at least one f-bomb. If I didn’t see the word, I reread the page as if it’s a game titled, “look for the f-bomb word.” Nearly every page has at least one f-bomb. Some pages have several. And, a few other profanity words are used through out the book. The profanity is crude and vulgar. As a woman, one of the profanity words used I take offense.
I decided to research the use of profanity in the time period of the late 800s. The Anglo-Saxon period in the setting now known as England. The websites I read are Medievalists.net and Irishtimes.com.
What I learned is f-bomb was probably first used in the 15th century. However, the earliest known reference is in 1310. The word was used in a court case. It is in the Renaissance period that modern profanity words began. Even the Romans didn’t use the f-bomb as an insult word. During the Anglo-Saxon period, the word sard was used to define people having sex. The profane words used during the Anglo-Saxon period was by God’s bones, or by Christ’s fingernails, or other similar terms. To call a man a mare or a woman was profane. This was demasculating a man which was profane.
Is it possible the profanity used in the book is apart of the fiction in historical?

How do I feel about the rest of the book?

I like the main character, Coelwulf. He is a courageous warrior with a tender heart to his kindred. There is a scene when he comforts grieving women whose men had died in battle. Even after some of them hit him, he wrapped his arms around them and grieved. This is an unexpected scene. This is an unexpected moment in the story. I don’t remember this type of behavior in other stories like The Last King. To me this is important: to tell a story in a way that has not been told before. This particular scene helped me rate the book okay.

The book is filled with bloody battle scenes, but I didn’t find them hard to read. They are graphic as they should be for dramatic purpose and realness.

In another place while I was researching profanity, I came across a quote I love. The author of the quote is Karen Swallow Prior. The article is from The Gospel Coalition, The Real Problem with 4-Letter Words.

“The power of a curse word is not in the letters but in the context, intention, and effect.”