Book review - Harald Hardrada The Warrior's Way by John Marsden
review by Becky
One of the greatest medieval warriors Harald Sigurdsson, nicknamed Hardrada (Harold the Ruthless or hard ruler) fell in battle in an attempt to snatch the crown of England. The spectacular and heroic career which ended at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire on 25 September 1066 had taken Harald from Norway to Russia and Constantinople and saw him gain a kingdom by force and determination rather than right or inheritance. He was one of the most feared rulers in Europe and was first and foremost a professional soldier, who acquired great wealth by plunder and showed no mercy to those he conquered. "Harald Hardrada: The Warrior's Way" reconstructs a military career spanning three and a half decades and involving encounters with an extraordinary range of allies and enemies in sea-fights and land battles, sieges and viking raids across a variety of theatres of war. John Marsden's superbly researched and powerfully written account takes us from the lands of the Norsemen to Byzantium and the Crusades and makes clear how England moved decisively from three hundred years of exposure to the Scandinavian orbit to a stronger identification with continental Europe following the Norman invasion.
Available on Amazon.com: Harald Hardrada the Warriors Way
I do believe this is the only book that performs a military study and history of Harald Hardrada of Norway's life, career in battle and of his kingship right up until 1066.
The tone of this book does seem a bit dry at first as the author explains to the reader the complicated family situation Harald grows up in until the famous battle of Stilkstad where he is injured in support of his half-brother Olav. But once you follow Harald Hardrada's journey to find sanctuary in Russia then the real adventure viking fans crave begins as you learn of one battle conquest after another as Harald gains more prowess and experience of leadership in the battlefield.
The parts I most enjoyed was the chapters on his service under the Emperess Zoe in Constantinople modern day Istanbul and how he was involved in the blinding of one traitor who instigated an attempt to deposs Zoe. Of course it also mentinos his famous escape from Constantinople as well.
In fact it's fair to say that the reader will learn about not just numerous adventures Harald got up to on his travels towards reclaiming his kingship from his nephew but also the many wonderful characters involved in his life from friends to enemies the cast is quite amazing.
Another thing about this book is that the author uses a lot of saga material from such characters to support his timeline of Harald's life which is also enlightening - including a few pieces Harald is reported to have composed himself.
I think anyone with a passion for history and for great historical figures of the 10th century should forget about reading about Alfred the Great or even Harold Godwineson (who of course is involved at the end) and pick up this one. It is incredibly interesting and enlightening and has a wonderful tale to tell.
Want to check out a Viking Historical Fiction Novel? Read Becky's Review of Harald Hardrada The Last Viking here.
Want to adventure throught the lands of the Vikings? The height of the Vikings is an amazing period of time and there is a lot of great fiction that is based on historical facts from that period and place. Rebecca Wilson has written a guide to the genre and to some of the best works in the genre.
If you are fascinated by the subject of Vikings you should check out her blog at: http://www.soulchaserbecky.blogspot.com/
You can follow her on Twitter @soulchaserbecky.
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