It is very rare indeed that the North Sea Empire, such a nice historical period, would become the center of a breathtakingly interesting and fascinating novel.
This is exactly what Norwegian historian, Tore Skeie, has delivered in his first major work translated into English, The Wolf Age: The Vikings, The Anglo-Saxons and the Battle for the North Sea Empire.
For those unaware, the North Sea Empire was the name that scholars and academics have given to the three kingdoms of Denmark, England, and Norway, which was united under a personal union by Viking king Sweyn Forkbeard.
With only the sea to unite these three early medieval kings, it was perhaps the most famous medieval thalassocracy.
The empire only lasted the briefest of periods, from 1016 CE to its eventual splintering less than three decades later in 1042 CE.
It was one of the very last major historical acts that the Vikings would play before those Scandinavian societies transformed into the medieval kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
A mixture of page-turning entertainment with painstakingly detailed research
What separates this from other non-fiction historical works is the thrilling and entertaining story that Skeie weaves throughout the book.
Not only do we meet all the great Viking and Anglo-Saxon figures of the age, from King of Wessex, and later England, Æthelred (so much more an interesting character than his unfortunate moniker that history has passed down to us) to the fiery Bishop of York, Wulfstan and from the Norman king Richard II to his counterpart, further south, the Caliph of Cordoba Hisham II and everyone in between.
There is also much attention paid to perhaps the man most responsible for our knowledge of the Norse sagas, legends, and history, the 12th century CE Icelandic man of letters, politician, author, and glitterati, Snorri Sturluson.
His life and downfall provide a fascinating insight into one of the Nordic region’s most famous medieval literary figures.
Skeie balances carefully researched facts with a knack for clear, concise, and often witty writing that makes for a thoroughly entertaining historical tale. Whilst the characters may seem larger than life, this was a time of heroes, a time where men were as vicious as wolves.
For those who are spending this holiday season curled up next to a fire or sipping cocktails by the beach, this historical novel will not send you to sleep.
Entertaining, thoroughly researched, and a fascinating insight into the political machinations and medieval society of the North Sea Empire and its surrounds.
The Wolf Age: The Vikings, The Anglo-Saxons and the Battle for the North Sea Empire by Torje Skeie is available to buy on Amazon here.
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