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Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking by Michael…

Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking (edition 2011)

by Michael Burr

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185561,019 (3.71)None
Title:Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking
Authors:Michael Burr
Info:Knox Robinson Publishing Ltd (2011), Hardcover
Collections:Your library

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Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking by Michael Burr



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While the book was slow to start, I found it interesting and enjoyed reading about a time not usually discussed in books outside of textbooks. After I got through the prologue, which was slow and clunky, I found that the book flew and found myself lost in the story and characters. I noticed a few minor editing errors, which annoyed me, but, other than that, I really enjoyed this book! ( )
  eheinlen | Jan 18, 2012 |
Between Linguistics and early British Literature this past semester, I got a crash course in the beginnings of the English language. I watched YouTube movies, listened to lectures, experienced Old English (and read some of it out loud!), and got to read (for the first time) Beowulf and discuss it. So some of what I was reading and expecting to read in Harald Hadrada did not come as a surprise.

What did come as a surprise was just how violently I reacted to the initial part of the story. It was just so.. graphic and horrifying. I know that’s how things were, how the “Spoils of war” were treated, but reading it put down there on the page just really made it hit home to me.

So, needless to say, I was on the side of the “Scraeling” throughout the entire story.

Harald Hardrada is based on the true story of Harald, the “last” Viking. It chronicles his life through the eyes of his young squire, the “Scraeling”, a boy picked up after a raid on a convent that leaves the nuns raped and murdered. The boy is crippled, due to a break in his hip and it being set wrong, but has incredibly high intelligence and does much for Harald’s campaigns and his victories. But it’s all for a purpose.

This book was dense with history, facts and battles. It read like watching a chess game between two matches is like. I really had to keep my mind focused on each detail in order to fully grasp what was happening and see the effects of those actions coming. I found it to be intellectually stimulating, engaging, and it has since been the topic of not a few conversations with friends. ( )
  TheLostEntwife | Dec 29, 2011 |
I found the historical aspect of this book quite fascinating, as I know little of the Viking period. I'd heard of their reputations of ruthlessness and skilled warriors, and this certainly did not lack any of those episodes. The story is told through the eyes of The Scraeling. His voice is the first we hear, and his declaration in the prologue that really hooked me into the story. The reader is quickly inserted into the account of how The Scraeling came to be serving Harald Hardrada, in the account of the viking's violent pillaging of the convent where he lived. The episode is described in detail, and for any who find it hard reading violent episodes, including rape, will likely have difficulties getting past the story of how The Scraeling came to be a trusted secretary. However, this was one of the most, if not the most violent episode depicted in the novel, so if you can get through it, you are in for an interesting read. Harald traveled greatly, working as a mercenary for his kin in Kiev and for Empress Zoe of Constantinople. The reader also gets treated to excerpts of the Heimskringla, the famous Norse saga, during the section breaks.

My biggest criticism was the use of some modern sounding slang terms. These are terms in use today, and having them in a story in the time before William the Bastard claimed the English throne to become William the Conqueror made what seemed like a jarring contrast to the more period sounding voice of the rest of the novel. More authentic sounding terms would have maintained the mood better throughout the book. However, I found most of slang seemed to centered around the attack on the convent at the start, and later in Harald's relations with Empress Zoe. Once I realized that most of that sort of language was past, I was left to enjoy Scraeling's schemeings. The story gets told between the first person, where Scraeling is validating or commenting on the events well after they happened, then in the third person depicting the events as it happened. I found this to be effective, and gave the feeling of reading the memoirs of Scraeling.

I found it to be an interesting read, and if not for the language issue, I would have given it a full four stars. I received a copy from the publisher for honest review. ( )
  sawcat | Dec 26, 2011 |
Thank you to Knox Publishing for allowing me to read Harald Hardrada in exchange for an honest review.

Somewhere along the way in my history education, I managed to miss learning about Harald Hardrada, or it's possible I've totally forgotten about him. This novel served to teach me everything I ever want to know about the man, the legend, the Viking.

This is not a history book, it's a fictionalized account of Hardrada's life with interspersed commentary by Ranulf (the Scraeling) who was supposedly kidnapped during the raid on the convent. The narrative switches between the third person, giving factual details of Harald's life along with suppositions from the author, and first person commentaries by the Scraeling. At first, I found the switches rather disconcerting and felt it made the story choppy, but I got used to it. One thing I never got used to or enjoyed was the portents of doom that the Scraeling would interject. He'd say things like Hardrada didn't know this was the last time (insert event here). I don't mind a bit of foretelling in a story, but it was done several times. I'd rather just read what actually happened than be told ahead of time.

Michael Burr, the author, did a great job characterizing Harald and the other Vikings. They were a brutal bunch and Burr didn't pull any punches in his writing. There were fairly graphic rapes and copious bloody battle scenes.

The Scraeling, though a fictional character, was given great depth. He had been taken in by nuns and taught their peaceful ways, but once with Hardrada, he had to learn to be ruthless to survive. His keen intelligence and swift learning of battle tactics made him invaluable to the Viking barbarians.

There was a lot of use of foreign words in different languages throughout the book. This made it difficult for me to keep the story flowing as I read. I'd forget what a particular word meant, or it may not have been translated, so I'd have to re-read some sentences to make sure I understood.

I enjoyed the history lesson I received as I read this book. It didn't feel like a lesson, it was definitely an action-packed novel. Make sure to grab this book to learn about the last Viking king and the end of the Viking Age. ( )
  NCRainstorm | Dec 4, 2011 |
This was one heck of a tale about one hell of a man. Harald Sigurdsson was a brute of a Viking who goes after what he wants with little care for what he ravages along the way. He lived hard and he expected his followers to jump at his command. His story is told in this tale through a man he kidnapped from a nunnery. A crippled son of a local English lord who is cunning and educated and who makes himself useful to Harald but only to find a way to bring him down. He becomes the Scraeling.

This book brings an interesting re-telling of what I have read in past tales of how Harald came to be in England to distract Harold Godwinson from his attention to he who would become William the Conqueror. For that fateful act is the one Harald is most remembered. But he was a warrior for the Rus and for the Empress Zoe of Constantinople. He was basically a man without a country for a bit and he, his battle ax and his band of wanderers would war wherever war was needed. And they showed no mercy.

This book was fascinating. Hard to put down and an utter page turner for me. It flip-flopped between the story of Harald and his band and the Scraeling's memoirs as he moved higher up in Harald's esteem and plots to bring him down. It takes him a while and he wonders if the gods will ever stop smiling on Harald. Will they? History tells the tale of Harald's defeat but this book brings an interesting spin on how it might have happened.

I did find myself missing an author's note at the end. I found myself googling all over to try and place what was real and what was fiction - not to mention who was real. I realize these are not required in historical fiction books but they sure are nice.

Harald's story was harsh but his times were harsh. Although I suspect that he was just a monster. Some of the things he did turned my stomach. It was good he was stopped before he claimed the throne of England. Oy, can you imagine? ( )
  BrokenTeepee | Dec 3, 2011 |
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In the dead of night, a band of Vikings ravage a lonely convent on the Brittany coast?and their fearsome leader makes a decision that will eventually lead to his downfall. Ranulf de Lannion is fifteen years old. Crippled, deformed and abandoned by his family to the charity of the convent, he is seized by the Vikings during a midnight raid. Contemptuously nicknamed 'The Scraeling by his captors, his future appears grim. Harald Sigurdsson, or 'Hardrada' as he will come to be known, is the leader of the Viking band. A violent mercenary with designs on the throne of Norway, Hardrada abducts The Scraeling on a whim. Ranulf grows into an invaluable asset, smoothing Hardrada?s path over their thirty-five years together from mercenary to commander of the Varangian Guard, all the way to king of Norway. But all is not as it seems in the heart of Ranulf de Lannion. Having sworn secret revenge upon Hardrada for the murders at the convent, he vows to end the day of the Viking forever. When the king of Norway launches an attack against the Anglo-Saxon throne of England in 1066, what role will The Scraeling play in bringing the age of the Viking to an end?… (more)

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