Odin's Wolves

by Giles Kristian

Reviewed by David Maclaine

With Odin's Wolves, Kristian concludes his Raven trilogy, although not, perhaps, its hero's adventures. By the novel's end, the journey of the mysterious youth who earns the nickname Raven will reach a satisfying resolution, and a long and varied trip it turns out to be.

In the previous volume, Sons of Thunder, the bustle of urban life in Paris and the grandeur of church and palace in Charlemagne's Aachen impressed the crew of Norsemen and their more recent Danish allies. They're about to be more impressed. The longships now head southward, past the shores of Moslem-controlled Spain en route to the Mediterranean. Their journey's goal is the great city they know as Micklegard. Along the way, marvels beyond their imagination will swim into view, including the elegant though disappointingly plunder-poor mosques of the Spanish Moors; the dark-skinned blaumen who row the Moorish galleys; the vast confusion of early ninth-century Rome, haunted by the crumbling ruins of its imperial past; and finally the greatest marvel of them all, Constantinople, a city that casts all others into the shade. Viking-age sight-seeing is a bit more deadly than our own, and in this case includes a fleeting revival of gladiatorial fights in the Flavian Amphitheater at Rome and a daring kidnapping during mass in Constantinople's Hagia Sophia.

Kristian's writing has grown richer and more powerful in the course of this series. Odin's Wolves concludes with its band of oath-sworn brothers much thinned by violent death, mulling the high cost of the riches that lure the warrior on his bloody road. The series' hero is still early in what the framing chapters tell us will be a long and eventful life, so fans can hope the author will follow through on his hints and that this is not the story's final end but merely a long pause while Kristian tackles the English Civil War in another trilogy. (2011, 320 pages.)

More about Odin's Wolves at Powell's Books, Amazon.com or The Book Depository

Odin's Wolves appears on the list of The 45 Best Historical Novels Set in the Viking Age

Other novels about travelers in Byzantium (later Constantinople):

The High City by Cecelia Holland (2009), about members of a Viking expedition to Byzantium. See review or more info at Amazon.com

Rogue Sword by Poul Anderson (1960), about a mercenary soldier in the Grand Catalan Company and his role in the wars between Constantinople and the Turks. See review or more info at Amazon.com

Byzantium by Michael Ennis (1990), about the eleventh-century Norse prince Harald Sigurdarsson (later Harald Hardrada, King of Norway) when he served in the Byzantine Emperor's Varangian Guard. More info

Nonfiction about Vikings in Byzantium:

The Viking Road to Byzantium by Hilda Ellis Davidson (1976). More info

The Varangians of Byzantium by Sigfus Blöndal (revised edition, 2007), a history of the Varangian Guard with particular emphasis on Harold Hardrada's role. More info

The Varangian Guard, 988-1453 by Raffaele D'Amato (2010), an Osprey "Men-at-Arms" book, illustrated by Giuseppe Rava. More info


The Varangian Guard: The Vikings in Byzantium at the Soldiers of Misfortune website

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