At the turn of the 11th century, people from Viking societies were unstoppable. 

They had traded, raided, settled, and explored vast swathes of the Western world, from Constantinople to the shores of what is now Canada, from the Arctic Circle to the Caspian Sea, seemingly reaching everywhere in between. 

One of the most remarkable stories of human exploration and settlement was the Viking settlements in Greenland and further west on the island of Newfoundland. 

This latter settlement, established around 1000, showed that people from Viking societies beat Columbus by almost half a millennium in the European "discovery" of the Americas. 

However, despite all the bravado of their outward expansion, an inner infiltration was set to undermine this: Christianity.  

Though this was not a new phenomenon, Christianity had been introduced into the Nordic region centuries before; the late 10th and early 11th centuries saw it spill over into bloody division

Rulers often converted to tap into the broader Christian network throughout Europe for legitimacy and diplomacy whilst forcing their subjects to convert, often at the point of a sword. 

The old ways, what historians called the Old Norse religion, were still popular throughout many Viking societies, and battles were soon waged for the souls of communities, villages, and towns, pitting rulers against subjects, priests against pagans, and even families against families. 

In this backdrop of outward exploration and adventure and yet of societal division and inner turmoil, Tim Severin sets his book, Odinn's Child: The Heroes of the North Live On

This is a tale of adventure, self-discovery, and intrigue that is as tall a tale as some of the waves that Vikings had to cross on the high seas. 

Against the backdrop of Viking exploration, the novel delves into the complexities of Norse society, highlighting the clash between tradition and the forces of change. Illustration:  The Viking Herald

One lucky son of a... Viking 

At the heart of this tall tale, worthy of addition to the rich tapestry of Norse sagas, is Thorgils Leifsson. 

He is brought, by his mother, to one of the Viking settlements on Greenland, to be brought up by a woman, Gudrid. 

However, this is not a typical or idyllic childhood for poor old Thorgill, and all is not as it seems. 

His father turns out to be none other than one of the early medieval period's greatest brawlers and (or) explorers, Leif "Lucky" Eriksson, the man who is credited (perhaps not historically accurately... but the Vikings never let facts get in the way of a good story!) with the "discovery" of North America

The narrative unfolds with vivid descriptions of the often-rugged landscapes of the Viking world, drawing readers into a world of adventure, exploration, and ancient beliefs. 

It is the overall adventurous tone of Odinn's Child that makes it a fascinating read, which should be no surprise as Severin is a famed British explorer. 

Perhaps his most audacious journey was reenacting a Viking-era voyage from Ireland to Newfoundland in a replica of an early medieval boat said to have been used by the Irish monk St. Brendan. 

Like the author, Thorgil's story is one thrilling adventure that sees him crisscross the western hemisphere, from the courts of medieval Europe to Viking settlements in Greenland and Vinland. 

Thorgils' journey from Greenland to Vinland serves as a metaphor for the broader struggle between tradition and modernity, as well as the search for personal meaning in a rapidly changing world. Illustration: The Viking Herald

So detailed that you can smell the salty sea 

To view this book solely as a high-octane romp would be erroneous, as its core centers on Thorgill's quest to connect with his father and establish an identity after a young life shrouded in mystery, silence, and unanswered questions. 

This search for identity is the driving force that moves the narrative along and allows Thorgill the agency to explore vast swathes of the Viking world. 

Aside from Thorgill's inner turmoil, the societal crisis caused by Christianity's growing influence and importance is also explored, especially given that Thorgil's unique gift (precognition) has been honed with the help of mentors of the Old Ways. 

These mentors warn him of the "invasion" of Christianity into Viking lands, and thus Thorgill finds himself torn between the ancient and the modern, Christianity and paganism, normality and abnormality. 

Odinn's Child is not unlike some of Severin's earlier travel writings in that it gives the reader an immersive experience, one that is so full of adventure and detail that you can smell the salty sea. 

It also brims with tension and intrigue so you'll be turning the page wanting to know if this child of Odin will find his identity and thus his destiny. This is the first installment in a trilogy dubbed the Viking

Odinn's Child: The Heroes of the North Live On by Tim Severin is available for purchase on Amazon here.

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