This is the story of one of the most famous Vikings, Harald Sigurdharson (aka Harald Sigurdsson, aka Harald Hardråde) who will become Norway’s King Harald III. We begin with teenage Harald, fighting alongside his brother, King Olaf II, known as Olaf the Stout. There is an uprising against King Olaf due to his devotion and support of Christianity and Olaf is killed in the skirmish. Harald escapes to Russia and finds work as a mercenary.
Harald finds success, makes many friends in his rough life, and he’ll call upon them as he works his way back to Norway to claim his rightful place on the throne.
Although author Poul Anderson is a noted science fiction/fantasy author, I have not read many works by him, and those I did read were back in the 1970’s. His writing didn’t make a big (or positive) impression on me and so I’ve mostly ignored his rather large body of work. This reprint caught my eye due to the Viking theme. I was not aware that it was very much historical fiction – all the characters, locations, and battles being actual people, places, and fights according to historical records. Had I known, I probably would have jumped into this read much sooner. My appreciation of the book, however, was not likely to have been very different.
This might have worked better as a history book than a novel. At least it reads very much like the history books that I grew up with – facts and figures, who met with whom, who fought with whom, how did person ‘A’ get to point ‘B’? Ready for the test? Meaning … this was dry.
Some readers and writers just don’t click, and I think Poul Anderson is one of those writers that doesn’t work for me. Such great material – clearly something I would really be fascinated with, and yet I struggled to get through this. A Viking warrior! One who would become one of the greatest kings in Norway! How do you make this so dull?!
It’s clear that Anderson did a great deal of research and had a passion for the subject. I appreciated the historical perspective, but it almost seems as though Anderson wanted to make sure he was accurate, more than telling a ripping good yarn. That’s just an impression, and I sure could be mistaken.
When I went to Wikipedia to look up some background information on the book I notice that this book (the first book of a trilogy) is co-written with Poul’s wife, Karen. Goodreads does not mention this on the book page.
I had high hopes, but this didn’t appeal to me.
Looking for a good book? The Golden Horn by Poul Anderson, the first book in The Last Viking trilogy, is historical fiction – strong on history, slow on storytelling.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Golden Horn
author: Poul Anderson
series: Last Viking #1
publisher: Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Kindle Edition, 212 pages