We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up sign up here >>


Graham Maslen

At the age of 10 in 1964, my parents bought The Readers Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary in anticipation of my transition to secondary school. In three volumes this helped inform my view of the world, past and present. The entry for Vikings was: “Norse raiders of the 8th-11th c AD particularly from Norway and Denmark. They temporarily occupied many of the coastal districts and river valleys of N and W Europe including those of Britain and Ireland and also traded between Russia and W Europe”. My subsequent knowledge and understanding of the Vikings through secondary school reinforced the (now) stereotypical view of the Vikings as exclusively male, always marauding, frequently murdering inspired by Gods who were malevolent. The trade with the east, referenced in the entry in the encyclopaedia, in my experience was never expanded or developed. Cat Jarman is an archaeologist specialising in bioarchaeological investigations. In this impressive book she provides a rich and more balanced account of the Vikings. Each of the nine chapters starts with an archaeological find including an intriguing carnelian bead, mundane ship nails, a small silver female armed warrior and neck rings. These artefacts are a point of departure to describe and evidence the movement of the Vikings eastward to Constantinople, Baghdad and possibly India. Rather than marauding, male murderers we are presented with a history of the Vikings which reveals them as long distance traders and settlers along the eastern river systems such as the Volga and Dnieper with women participating more fully in Viking society not just as mothers but also as traders, leaders and warriors. The Vikings did not always conquer and subdue places they travelled to but co-habited, agreed pacts and exchanged goods. There was also organisational, spiritual and cultural cross fertilisation between the Vikings and the peoples they encountered in the east. This richer and more nuanced account of the Vikings is attributable to new techniques used in archaeological investigations including DNA analysis, isotope analysis, radio carbon dating and ground penetrating radar. These methods have been used not just on organised excavations but on the many finds reported by amateur metal detectorists. Cat Jarman has marshalled a stunning array of archaeological and literary evidence to support a revelatory account of the Viking age which is a richly rewarding read.

Paul Snowden

“Replete with witches, human sacrifice, Greek fire and funeral orgies… one of the most thrilling works of archaeological detective work I have ever read” - so said the quote from the Financial Times. Well, who can resist that? So, when the book arrived from the Viking Book Club, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in! I wouldn’t normally buy a book on archaeology or history, being more into adventure stories, thrillers and travel books. Well, this book is all of these combined. The author, Dr Cat Jarman, is an archaeologist who goes one step further to make forensic deductions about her finds, and then pieces these together to produce a brilliant adventure story. At times her writing is quite academic, but don’t let this put you off, as it helps to explain some of the scientific thinking behind her assumptions, which only serves to make the story itself more convincing. Dr Jarman takes us on a Viking journey which starts in the Derbyshire village of Repton and then goes to Scandinavia, across the Baltic Sea to Estonia, continues along the Volga (which brought back happy memories of our Waterways of the Tsars cruise), across the Ukraine, over the Caspian Sea and eventually ends up in India. The narrative really brings to life what it must have been like in those civilisations, and I can thoroughly recommend this book to any present day Viking traveller.

Linda Smith

I am delighted to be reading this new title sent to me by the Viking book club. It couldn’t have been timed better having recently read The Dig which I followed up by visiting the British Museum to see the Sutton Hoo treasure and the Lewis Chessmen. River Kings is an easy book to get into due to Cat Jarman’s writing style. To begin with I found it a compelling read and she has transformed the way I’ve always viewed the Vikings (mainly as it was taught in primary school). However I began to find it a bit heavy going just over half way through. There was a certain amount of repetitiveness and reference to the science behind discoveries which no doubt someone more academic than myself would find fascinating. From then on I began fast forwarding and only reading the bits that interested me. Nevertheless, within the contents of this book there is plenty to interest anyone travelling to Norway, the Baltics and beyond.

Ian Fellowes

Whilst there is no question that this book is well written, it is very much more of a history text book than a novel, which to me, makes it much more interesting than exciting. Anybody who has an interest in the Vikings and wants to know where they travelled to, who they battled with and equally interestingly how they were buried (honestly that is a fascinating section of the book!) will probably find this a must read! I did learn quite a lot about the history of the period but I am afraid I found the book somewhat hard going and therefore could only recommend it to real history buffs!

Marilyn McDonnell

When I received River Kings from Viking Book Club I felt rather overcome. This was not really my usual read. To my surprise I found it a very interesting and enjoyable book. Cat Jarman, the author, is a bio archaeologist and a field archaeologist specialising in the Viking Age. She writes in an easy, interesting way and doesn’t lecture the reader. Her work is as an investigator into a mystery. Starting in Reston, Derbyshire a mass grave was found filled with human bones. Importantly a small bead was also found and then locked away for years. The bead was made from carnelian and it made a link: the Vikings with trade and the Silk Roads. Thus beginning a journey to discover the travel routes of the Vikings. Viking boats could travel along rivers but centuries later river channels are very different, making it difficult to know the actual routes of Vikings centuries ago. Cat Jarman with her forensic background recounts with such joy her discovers and findings. You cannot fail to enjoy the River Kings.