Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Great Heathen Army seizes Northumbria

Often historical fiction inspires me to read history, eager to know more about the age and historical places in which the fictional story is placed. When I read The Northumbrian Saga by A.H. Gray, I immediately wanted to know more about the king brothers Osberht and Ælla who fought among themselves when the Danes invaded York with the Great Heathen Army in 866.

Ivar the Boneless
Some historians mean that Ivar the Boneless suffered from
brittle bones disease and had to be carried by his men.
Others claim that Ivar was the giant Viking leader that was
buried near Repton

For historical persons, places, and maps, Wikipedia usually is a good starting point, but in this particular case A.H. Gray has a very informative blog. Here one can read about York (Jorvik), the forming of Northumbria, and Ivar the Boneless, and his brother Halvdan, who became ruler of London and later King of Jorvik.

Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
The leaders of Great Heathen Army were Ivar the Boneless, Halvdan, and Ubbe, who were sons of the legendary hero Ragnar Lodbrok. Their story is told in The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok, but when I read A.H. Gray’s book, I preferred to study a chapter in the very interesting Norwegian book Vikinger i krig (Vikings at War) in which the Viking invasion of East Anglia, Northumbria, and Mercia, and the establishment of the Danelaw is described. In a failed attempt to conquer all of England, the Great Heathen Army fought sevel battles against armies from Wessex, lead by Alfred the Great. This is a very exciting period in British history and also the period of Uthred, the hero in Bernard Cornwall’s Saxon series.


Vikinger i krigVikinger i krig by Kim Hjardar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vikinger i krig meaning "Vikings at War" is a very good Norwegian book about Viking warfare. It tells about the Vikings as raiders and conquerors, and the book retells how they established long-lasting realms in Ireland, Scotland, England, France and Russia. The book is beautifully illustrated with a wealth of informative photos, drawings, maps and graphics. It describes Viking war strategies at sea and on land, and it contains an especially interesting chapter about Viking weapons: their use and the weapons mythological and religious significance.

The Northumbrian Saga (Book 1)The Northumbrian Saga by A.H. Gray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Northumbrian Saga by A.H. Gray tells a story of war and power struggles from a woman’s point of view. In the beginning of the book, young Aethelwin is married to the son of a powerful chieftain to assure his allegiance to King Osbert of Northumbria, Aethelwin's uncle. However, her husband changes his allegiance to Aella, the bastard brother of the king and his rival to the throne. Aethelwin experiences a conflict of loyalties and has to choose side in the conflict. Things don’t get easier for Aethelwin when The Great Heathen Army, led by Halvdan and Ivarr the Boneless (two legendary sons of Ragnar Lothbrok), invades York with the intention to conquer the whole of Northumbria and make it a Danish dependency.

Seldom have I experienced the textual instance of an implied author more vividly then when reading this book. The implied author is the mental image of an author a text evokes in the reader based on the book’s language use, perspective, and content. In this particular book, neither the title, nor the author’s name or the cover, gives any indication of the real writer’s sex, but I hadn’t read many pages before a distinct female author's voice formed in my mind.

In the book, the perspective lies firmly with Aethelwin, and almost all dramatic historical events are seen from afar, told her by others, which creates a distance between the events and the reader. The book's inner story circles around the women’s life in the hall or in the house. Here Aethelwin weaves or cooks and talks and ponders; her focus is on feelings and affections and her relations to the male characters in the book. For me there is far too much talking and thinking. I don’t want to be told about fights and battles: I want to be where the action is. But then, I’m probably not the implied reader the author had in mind when writing the book.

I also feel that all the changes of affections that Aethelwin experiences are mostly claimed or asserted; the reasons for the changes are seldom shown or properly motivated. Even female events, like giving birth, are told with a distance. Erotic feelings and sexual desires are apparently absent, also in the men that control the young and beautiful Aethelwin.

This said, the language flows gently (even if anachronistic expressions frequently occur), the author has a sure hand on the use of perspective, and the story is not without suspense. On the contrary, the author’s method is to let rumours seep into the kitchen, the hall, the hovel, or wherever Aethelwin is held captive , and thus arouse hope and fear of what is going to happen in the world of fighting men. Aethelwin’s happiness depends on it, but even when she eventually is relatively free to build her own business, which she does, she continues to talk and ponder and God knows how she actually gaines her wealth. But at least she steps into the real world and tries to influence events by manipulating other people. Some of these are Danes, and in the book the Danes are mostly characterized as barbarians or “rabid dogs” by the Northumbrians, descriptions that are poorly levelled by the author. In the book there is very little understanding of the Viking world view.

The point of view character, Aethelwin, has a silly and self-righteous (and rather modern) way of thinking , but despite of – or because of – her being so irritatingly shallow and supercilious, I read on, anxious to know how the story ends. In the last part of the book, a lot of interesting things happen – in short: the war hardens – and the suspense builds up. My sympathies, however, are not with Aethelwin, but with the men and women affected by her self-absorption. I don't think that was the author's intention.

I hope that The Northumbrian Saga is the first book in a series. A.H Gray obviously knows much about the fate of Northumbria, and I want to read more.

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Monday, 21 October 2013

A meeting with Huginn and Muninn, Odin's ravens

A couple of days ago I met Odin's ravens.

I was hiking in the mountains, around a small lake called Dalevatnet, when I first heard their hoarse cries. Looking up and around I saw no birds, but I knew a pair of ravens were living in the area, so I kept on walking and listening, watching my steps in the wet bogs around the lake. The autumn had turned the marches into a reddish brown; up the hillside the birches were loosing their yellow leaves.

The weather was grey and the wind cold, and I was halfway around the lake when I heard the ravens croak again, and now two birds came gliding over the mountan ridge; riding the wind, they followed the hill, only occationally flapping their wings.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Congratulations Tone Almhjell!

Norwegian author Tone Almhjell 

Tone Almhjell is a Norwegian author who has written the children fantasy book The Twistrose Key. The debut novel has been praised by and the Kirkus review begins in this way: "Skillfully blending facets of classic high fantasy, this debut novel will captivate readers with its rich plot and detailed worldbuilding." Tone Almhjell writes in English, and being a Norwegian writer who does the same, Tone's success is definitely an inspiration for me. Again: Congratulations!

The publishers book description:

"Something is wrong in the house that Lin's family has rented; Lin is sure of it. The clocks tick too slowly. Frost covers the flower bed, even in a rain storm. And when a secret key marked 'Twistrose' arrives for her, Lin finds a crack in the cellar, a gate to the world of Sylver.

This frozen realm is the home of every dead animal who ever loved a child. Lin is overjoyed to be reunited with Rufus, the pet she buried under the rosebush. But together they must find the missing Winter Prince that night in order to save Sylver from destruction. They are not the only ones hunting for the boy. In the dark hides a shadow-lipped man, waiting for this last Winter Prince to be delivered into his hands.

Exhilarating suspense and unforgettable characters awaits the readers of this magical adventure, destined to become a classic."

The Twistrose Key
The Twistrose Key

Buy The Twistrose Key on or

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Ragnarok Riddle (Gåten Ragnarok)

Last night I went to the cinema to see Gåten Ragnarok (The Ragnarok Riddle or just Ragnarok), a new Norwegian action-adventure film inspired by Viking mythology and history.

In the film, Sigurd is an archaeologist and researcher at the Viking Ships Museum in Oslo, the capital of Norway. He works hard to reveal the mysteries connected to the very rich Oseberg burial finds, dug up during excavations back in 1904. His hard work has partly to do with the death of his wife, and his two children suffer because of his long working days.

Coming nowhere with his research and about to loose his job, Sigurd gets a breakthrough when a friend turns up with a rune stone he has found in the far north of Norway, in Finnmark. Combined with a broach from the Oseberg finds, a riddle written on the slab can be solved, but it only points to new riddles. The writings suggest that Queen Åsa, who was buried in the Oseberg ship, had been travelling up in the far north, and the runes point to a certain lake with a small island, called Odin's eye, deep into Finnmark wilderness.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Does Cornwell think we are stupid?

The Pagan Lord (The Saxon Stories, #7)The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(With spoilers from the two first (of thirteen) chapters.)

Bernard Cornwell is a master of his craft. He writes well, he knows how to tell an exciting story; he weaves his tales of Uthred of Bebbanburg nicely into Saxon history.

In The Pagan Lord Uthred comes home to Fagranforda and finds his hall in flames and his woman missing. Uthred rides to the Danish warlord Cnut Longsword and gets Sigrunn back on the condition that he will find Cnut's wife and only son, who are also abducted.

Home again, the rest of Uthred's homestead is burning, and Uthred is threatened by a Christian mob that is raging over his killing of a holy abbot. Beaten and cursed, Uthred rides to Lundene with his people and the rest of his warriors. Here he buys a warship and sets out with his men on a northerly voyage - to regain Bebbanburg Castle, his inheritance.

For readers it's only to board the ship, sit down on a thwart, and enjoy the ride. Cornwall will do all the steering and at regular intervals the conflicts (and almost everything else) will be repeated and difficult elements explained. No intellectual efforts needed. Everything is just right. Cornwell must think that his readers are stupid.

And stupid we are, sitting on the thwart or riding a horse, feeling Cornwall's hands holding the reins, enjoying every minute, very well knowing there's no need to turn off the television. Well done!

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Saturday, 28 September 2013

FROST (from the writer of Valhalla Rising)

When I looked at my reviews of books at Goodreads the other day, I discovered that I almost exclusively give the the books a rating of four or five stars. But the reason is obvious: I only review books that I have finished reading, and I only finish books that I like. Frost was such book.

Frost by Roy Jacobsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roy Jacobsen
Valhalla Rising
Valhalla Rising
Frost (2003) is a historical novel from the Viking Age written by the Norwegian author Roy Jacobsen, who also co-wrote Valhalla Rising (2009), the popular movie starring Mads Mikkelsen. Frost is translated into Russian and several other languages, but not into English. This is a review of the Norwegian original.

The book is about Gest (Torgest Torhallason), who as a 13 year old boy or man, to avenge the murder of his father, kills Viga-Styr, one of the greatest chieftains in Iceland. He has to flee Iceland, and in Norway he hides among friends. But even in Norway he cannot escape the powerful friends of Viga-Styr.

Gest is a very short and small man, but with cleverness and aggressive surprise attacks, he kills several of his pursuers. He thus gets even more enemies but befriends Eirik Hakonson, the earl of Hladir. After Olav Tryggvason's defeat in the Battle of Svolder, Eirik has become ruler of Norway. The novel tells how Eirik of Hladir, with Gest as adviser, joins up with Cnut the Great to conquer England in 1013.

What strikes me when I read Frost is how Jacobsen manages to create a genuine Viking feel to the story. Jacobsen writes in a variant of Norwegian called Bokmål (Book language), which over the centuries has received strong influence from a lot of foreign languages (German, Danish, Latin, French, English), but despite this influence Norwegian has preserved a large vocabulary based on Old Norse (and Germanic roots). Many more or less forgotten words from the old language have also been vitalized through modern Norwegians translations of Icelandic sagas and old poems. Modern authors thus have a lot of Norse-rooted words at hand when they need to denote and describe old objects, people, customs and actions. Jacobsen knows how to utilize this vocabulary in giving his story a trustworthy Viking tone.

What I dislike in Frost is the author's dealing with religion. When Gest meets Christianity in Norway and later in England, he starts thinking about the Christian faith and wonder if he is going to let himself be baptised. All this musing, however, has to have happened on the background and very much in contrast to his former Old Norse world-view, dominated as this must have been with gods like Odin and Thor and experiences of invisible creatures and forces, such as land-spirits, elves, dwarves, and the Norns that were weaving his fate. This Old Norse way of experiencing life Jacobsen ignores. Which of is too bad.

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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Why give books away for free?

The Lethal Oath (The Viking Series #1)
For some days copies of The Lethal Oath were
 available at Amazon for free.
Two weeks have gone since the period of free copies of The Lethal Oath ended. Afterwards I've been asked why I gave e-books away for free. The short answer to that question is: promotion. However, in a Google+ post one of my friends answered that he had downloaded at least fifty free e-books without reading any of them.

Claiming that the chances of reading a book is  greater when you have paid for it, he wrote: "I think it is because I have so many print books and e-books that I have actually paid for and rewarded the author for their efforts. I think if you pay for something you want to get your money's worth out of it, whereas if you don't pay for it, it doesn't matter if you never read it."

I tend to agree with him. I believe we are more likely to start reading a book we have paid for. But we don't read in order to satisfy the author, but to reassure ourselves that the book we bought was worth the price; that it will give us a good read.

On the other hand: How many free books haven't we read over the years? Books we have got from others, presents, books lent from friends, or at the library, or classics downloaded from the Internet?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Special offer: Free e-book

The Lethal Oath (The Viking series #2)


For German readers, click here.
French readers, click here.
British readers, click here.

(The offer will last until Thursday the 15th of August)

The Lethal Oath is the second book in The Viking Series. It's a historical action-adventure novella with Sigve the Awful as the main character. The story is set in Norway in the late Viking Age.

In the novella, Sigve enters into a hot erotic relationship with Ylajali. She is a mysterious thrall girl and the only person who knows the secret of Sigve's sword. She knows the slayer rune, the spell that quickens the sword and gives its wielder superhuman strength.

Despite his young age - and mostly because of the slayer rune - Sigve has gained reputation as a swordsman. In the beginning of the book, Sigve becomes the youngest chieftain in King Godred realm. During the inaugural feast, on his sword, he swears a sacred oath, only to discover it stands in the way of his getting Ylajali in bed.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Giles Kristian on Goodreads

Currently the historical fiction writer Giles Kristian is discussing his debut novel Blood Eye with readers in the group Ancient and Medieval Historical Fiction at Goodreads. I have participated in the discourse, read his book, and written a review. If you're on Goodreads, feel free to add me as your friend. See you there!

Blood Eye (Raven #1)Blood Eye by Giles Kristian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had high expectations, but the book was a bit disappointing. Not that Kristian doesn't write well and he certainly displays a wide knowledge of Saxons, Vikings, and Norse mythology; somehow I felt at home in his world. It was the way the story is told that disappointed me.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

"Saga Oseberg" sails to Kaupang

Kaupang was an important Viking trading town in northern part of Denmark (today's south-eastern part of Norway). This summer "Saga Oseberg", an exact replica of the Oseberg ship, sailed in Viksfjord to Kaupang. See more pictures in the local newspaper Østlands-Posten and read my review of a beautiful Kaupang book below.

Saga Oseberg (Viking ship)
Saga Oseberg's rowers

Saga Oseberg (Viking ship)
Saga Oseberg with captain and crew


KAUPANG: The Viking Town. The Kaupang Exhibition at UKM, Oslo, 2004-2005 by Dagfinn Skre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This s a gem of a book. It tells the story of Kaupang, the trading place at Skiringssal in the south-eastern part or Norway. Kaupang was an urban centre or town in the 9th and 10th centuries, and the book places Kaupang among the most important trading centres in the Scandinavian Viking age, along with Ribe, Birka, and Hedesby.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Images of "Saga Oseberg"

I'm back from my vacation, I've been relaxing on our cottage with my family and I've been sailing in the same waters as Saga Oseberg, the new replica of the famous Oseberg ship. I saw the ship being built, but I still haven't seen here sailing, unfortunately. But here are beautiful photos of her on her way to Risør Wooden Boat Festival.

Saga Oseberg (The Oseberg ship)

Saga Oseberg (The Oseberg ship)

Saga Oseberg (The Oseberg ship)

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Free e-book: THE SLAYER RUNE

The Slayer Rune


For German readers, click here.
French readers, click here.
British readers, click here.

(The offer will last until Monday the 8th of July)

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The northern summer

The northern summer is short and intense. In all of July I'm going on vacation, sailing the southern part of the Norwegian coast, taking my family to our summer house, and generally doing nothing. In this period I will dramatically reduce my activities in the social media.

(While waiting for more Viking action, romance and magic, 
why not listen to Fever Ray and her Vikings Theme song)

The only thing I do in my summer holidays, apart from sailing, bathing, eating and relaxing, is reading. If you read too, you could, if you like, try one of my books, The Slayer Rune or The Lethal Oath. If you're in for rune magic, choose the first. If you're more into erotic mysteries, pick the second.

Good summer!

Southern coast of Norway, outside Grimstad and Vik

Friday, 21 June 2013

"A fantastic novel"

the Lethal Oath (The Viking series)
Click here.
The last weeks I have been very inspired. In her final letter, my editor says that The Lethal Oath is “truly a page-turner,” and that I have “created a gem of a historical action-adventure novel that is sure to entertain readers.” The characters are well drawn, unique, and engaging, she writes, and concludes that it is “a magnificent, well-written, riveting story (...) a fantastic novel from beginning to end.”

With such words, writing is easy. The editor suggested stylistic improvements, and also pointed to some inconsistencies, especially in punctuation. The last weeks I have rewritten sentences and paragraphs and made even more use of active voice. I have omitted superfluous words and corrected all the small errors that inevitably creep into written manuscripts.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Caught in A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones
A Game of Thrones
So much is said and written about A Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire that I will tell about my reading of the books. I thought I'd never heard about George R.R. Martin when I first read about HBO's TV series on the Web. This was in autumn 2011, and in USA the first season of A Game of Thrones was over, but in Norway, where I live, it hadn't started. When I discovered that all of the four books in A Song of Ice and Fire were among the best-sellers on Amazon, and that fans anxiously awaited A Dance with Dragons, I got curious and bought the four-book bundle for Amazon Kindle for $13.49.

And that was it. I felt ambushed, caught in a trap and imprisoned, with no way of escaping. A Song of Ice and Fire has so many fascinating and complex characters, so many parallel and intertwined plots, so many places and customs, and so much action that I was totally caught. I have never had such a captivating reading experience in my life.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Last Viking

Harald plots with Svein. (Click the
images to get a larger picture.)
Harald Hardrada (hard ruler) was a Norwegian king, who tried to conquer England in 1066. He lost and died in the Battle of Stamford Bridge. He was defeated by Harold Godwinson, who a week later lost the Battle of Hastings to William the Conquerer. The events in 1066 ended the Viking Age, and Harald Hardrada is often called The Last Viking. Some may recognize Harald in my profile image.

Then Sigrid said, "This could very
well be your bane!"
Another famous Norwegian king was Olav Tryggvason. In the image to the left, he quarrels with Sigrid the Haughty, a Swedish queen, known for killing her suitors by burning. Among them was Harald Grenske, who plays a major role in my book The Lethal Oath.

Olav Tryggvason is the model for Crowbone in Robert Low's Oathsworn series. In my third book, Gold, Olav is a toddler, hidden at Vik by his mother.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Slayer Rune is stirring

I am proud to tell you that The Slayer Rune is now for sale. You can buy it here at

The Slayer Rune is a historical action-adventure novel with slight supernatural elements. It's a story of love and hate and Viking action, infused with Norse mythology. Does Sigurd’s love for Ylajali lead to his actions, or do darker powers force him to do terrible deeds?

In the book you’ll meet Helgi Blackbeard, Big Bork and his brother Bork Berserk, Skarphedin the Second-Sighted, Grim, Hild, Sigrunn Silkyhair, the Witch from Spedale and the main character Sigurd (later called Sigve the Awful) and his love Ylajali. Will he get her?

Next book in the series is The Lethal Oath. Here I have added in Kale Curved-Cock and the Body, his daughter.

Young heroes and heroines

Sigurd (Arthur Rackham)

In The Slayer Rune, my first Viking novel, the hero, Sigurd (later Sigve the Awful) is young. His love, Ylajali, is even younger. Over the last couple of weeks, I have written reviews of three Old Icelandic legendary sagas, and also in these tales the heroes and heroines are young, very young. Some of the greatest characters were twelve, fifteen or sixteen when they performed their first heroic deeds.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Where did Tolkien find the ring?

The magic-heroic sagas written on the remote medieval island of Iceland are still inspiring artists, writers, TV-producers, and film-makers. The last couple of weeks I have reviewed three of the Old Icelandic legendary sagas.

New page on Facebook

If you are on Facebook, you can now get news about my books and see when new blog-posts are published. Click here!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Brynhild, Sigurd, Gudrun - the fatal love triangle

The Saga of the VolsungsThe Saga of the Volsungs by Anonymous
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Saga of the Volsungs is a great Old Icelandic legendary saga and one of the best magic-heroic tales ever told. It is the story of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer and his family, the Volsungs, and their conflicts with other northern royal families in the pre-Viking period. It is a story full of mythological figures, human drama, love, hate, and endless series of vengeance and murder.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

And Hrolf sliced off both his buttocks

The Saga of King Hrolf KrakiThe Saga of King Hrolf Kraki by Anonymous
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(This is a review of Jesse L. Byock's translation in Penguin Classics, and if we can talk of spoilers in a legend, here are lots of spoilers.)

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki is a legendary tale and one of the greatest Old Icelandic legendary sagas.

Hrolf Kraki, king in ancient Denmark, was not as many of the other legendary heroes; he was among the quiet and mild rulers, which, of course, didn’t prevent him from taking action and revenge when required. He is famous for having sowed pieces of gold on the Fyri’s Plane (in Sweden) to distract King Adils and his warriors. Hrolf was fleeing after having regained the gold Adils stole when he killed Helgi, Hrolf’s father. Hrolf also threw a gold ring in front of the pursuing king. When King Adils stopped to acquire the ring, Hrolf said that now “I have made the greatest of the Swedes stoop like a swine.” When Adils bent forward to fetch the ring, Hrolf sliced off both his buttocks “right down to the bone.”

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok

The Sagas of Ragnar LodbrokThe Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok by Ben Waggoner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s not an easy read. The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok is patchwork of literary styles, genres, and stories. Add a lot of names and genealogies and a rather wordy translation, and you have a bit of work ahead of you.

But it’s worth it. The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok contains tree sagas, a list of Swedish kings, and a long poem, Krákumál. If you’re unaccustomed with the Old Icelandic literary style, you should start with the sagas: Read The Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok first, then The Tale of Ragnar’s Sons, and Sögubrot last. Taken together, the sagas give the heroic legends of Ragnar and his sons: Ivar the Boneless, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and the others.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Human sacrifice

In episode eight of Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok with family and friends travel to Uppsala, the most renowned sacrificial site in all the Viking World. The description in Vikings builds closely on Adam of Bremen’s accounts of the Uppsala temple and rituals in Deeds of Bishops of the Hamburg Church.

When Ragnar visited the temple in the episode, I got associations to a church and to Christian liturgy, and details in Adam’s description remind more of Christian churches from the eighth and ninth centuries than a pagan offering place. Extensive searches and excavations at Uppsala have never revealed signs of a temple, but rather of a great king’s hall that Adam may have heard of.

Adam’s descriptions of rituals and human sacrifices at Uppsala have also been doubted and ascribed to Christian bishops’ habit of gross exaggerations in their anti-pagan propaganda. Human sacrifices, however, are told of many places in the old sagas.

Human sacrifice
King Domaldi is sacrificed. Illustration to Heimskringla by Erik Werenskiold.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


RagnarokRagnarok by A.S. Byatt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A.S. Byatt’s Ragnarok: The End of the Gods is a great book: well-written, interesting, exciting. I read it twice.

Ragnarok is about a little girl. Evacuated from Sheffield, she grows up in the English Second World War countryside. Here she starts reading the English version of the German book Asgard and the Gods. Digging into the mind of the child, Byatt simultaneously tells the girl’s life, her experiences with Asgard and the Gods, and the story of the Norse gods and Ragnarok. It’s elegant.

I don’t understand the end of the book. Does it give a stripe of hope? I don’t know. In Voluspå (the great Edda poem telling of the World’s beginning and end), a new and cleansed Earth rises after Ragnarok. But I prefer to believe that the Vikings and Byatt see Ragnarok as the ultimate destruction. Humanity lives and dies. End of story.

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Friday, 12 April 2013

Ship burial

The most famous description of a Viking ship burial is an eyewitness account given by Ahmad ibn Fadlan, an Arab traveller. He visited Kievian Vikings (in present-day Ukraine) in the 10th century. In episode six in the TV series Vikings, Earl Haraldson is buried in much the same way as the chieftain is buried in Ahmad ibn Fadlan's description. Both stories involve the burning of a ship with lots of grave offering, intercourses with a thrall woman who is sacrificed and buried alongside the chieftain in the ship, and a death angel.

Friday, 5 April 2013


"Earlier this morning, the first knorr had arrived. Now, the crew were busy unloading the ship. The men were wading the water, carrying barrels and bales on their shoulders. Vik was a trading centre and the landing a shallow beach with poles driven into the sands at deeper waters."
(From The Slayer Rune)

This is a photo from present-day Vik, the place where Sigve the Awful lived and where the action in the first books in The Awful Saga takes place. More images and maps here.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Vikings - a historical fantasy series?

The History Channel series Vikings is a fabulous saga full of exiting characters, good action, and realistic Viking settings. In four episodes we have followed Ragnar Lothbrok (played by Travis Fimmel). So far I’m impressed. Just as Ragnar at the end of episode four is preparing for more action, so am I.

The Lothbrok character is built on the sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok, who was a legend even in the late Viking Age, and definitely when the sagas were written half a millennium after Ragnar’s death. Despite being shown on History Channel, Vikings is not a historical series in a strict sense; it is rather a new version of the ancient Ragnar Lodbrok legend. In order to tell a good story, the series even tends to be rather unhistorical.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Slayer Rune

Here is a new cover. I have done a lot of small adjustments based on comments in Writer's Discussion Group at Google+. I’m glad I joined this group. In addition to comments on the e-book cover, I’ve received good advice on my writing. Both the prologue and the first chapters in The Slayer Rune have been edited. You can read the new versions here on the blog (see sidebar), and I'm open for more comments.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The volva and her herbs

"In a sad voice, Sigurd's mother began to sing, followed by the rest of the women.

It was a song about Freya, daughter of Njord, the goddess of love. The lay caused people to sway, moving to and fro. They sang it slowly, there, inside the hall, they lamented Freya's love of Od.

The song turned really sad when Od ran away. "Where is Od?" the women moaned in the song. In the glowing light of the pit fires, his mother changed into a volva, offering herbs to the flames. Making a flash, the burning leaves filled the room with a heavy and sweet-smelling smoke.

The lay was arousing, and soon the men fell in, enchanted. They all sang about Freya's longing, and the song was for Njord, the god who brought the grain – and the bjor."
(From The Slayer Rune)

Monday, 11 March 2013

Hemp and bjor

Archaelogical findings show that Norwegian Vikings grew hemp. Or as the researchers would say: they cultivated cannabis. Hemp fibers were used in textiles and ropes, and the plant was probably used to make drugs. Cannabis seeds have been found in excavations in Southern Norway and in the Oseberg grave. This has led some researcher to believe that one of the women in the grave was a powerful volva and a master of seid.

"The women had brewed bjor, the strongest beer; the girls had mixed the brew with hemp and other mind-bending herbs. The chieftain was planning a big feast. The hall was painted and decorated with deep-coloured rugs, and tables were set up and covered with bowls and drinking horns." ...

Friday, 8 March 2013

The Oseberg ship

Last winter an exact replica of the famous Oseberg ship was built in Tunsberg, Norway. As part of my research for coming books, I visited the building site last spring, and it was extremely interesting to watch the work and talk with shipwrights, woodcarvers and other craftsmen building the ship. The building was done outside a hotel near the harbour in Tunsberg and the site was open to the general public. In the hotel’s lobby women were also weaving cloth for tents and sail.

Monday, 25 February 2013


It seems to me there is an interest in the Viking Age these days. Here is a trailer for a new series at History Channel. The main character is Ragnar Lodbrok, one of the legendary heroes in the old sagas.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Beowulf and Sigurd the dragon slayer

Sigurd the dragon slayer

Once more I have read Beowulf by Seaumus Heaney, a very good reinterpretation of the Old English poem. Unlike many readers of the old story who are preoccupied with Grendel, the monster, I am most fascinated by the description of the dragon and the final underground fight in which both the serpent and Beowulf dies. What intrigues me with the poem’s depiction of the battle is the important part played by Wiglaf, Beowulf’s brave and loyal retainer. He stood the ground when the other followers fled at the sight of the flame-spitting dragon, and without Wiglaf Beowulf would never been able to kill the ravaging “sky-plague”, the burner of homesteads and humans. If you google or browse the Internet in search of pictures of the famous fight, you will very seldom see Wiglaf play any part in the slaying of the dragon.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Thing

"Around the king his soldiers sat, fully armed. They had armour and shields, spears, and swords or axes. With helmets over their faces they looked like evil spirits, but now they were bareheaded, their helmets lying on the ground. The Thing was a place of peace."
(From The Slayer Rune)


"Of course, Odin was the most unyielding of the gods. He looked terrible, a big tongue dropping out of his mouth. The painted carving made it look like Odin had been hanged, his tongue was blue. But then, Odin was the dead people's god. He was also master-of-runes and knew all the forces, both past and present."
(From The Slayer Rune)

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Coming soon!

"It was summer. He was young, and he was desperately in love with Ylajali, the most stunning thrall girl he had ever seen. And Helgi Blackbeard, the king's captain-of-arms, had plotted to marry her, for his own sick pleasure. The events took place during the king's stay at Vik, Sigve's homestead. But how he had dared carve those runes on Gisli's sword-hilt, Sigve could never figure out."

To readers: The Slayer Rune is in its final stages of editing and proof-reading, and a Kindle version will be published on Amazon in a matter of weeks. The Lethal Oath will soon follow, and I have also started drafting a third book in the series with the working title Gold. In the mean time you can read excerpts here on the blog, and for those really interested I may have a special offer at the end of chapter three.