My favorite thing about the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise is looking at a historic building or statue and thinking to yourself, “I bet I can climb that.” It is only after you’ve finally reached the top that you remember that you are on a quest. Then it’s back to the bloody business of influencing historical events as an assassin. The games I have enjoyed most are based on eras I am interested in and have knowledge of, like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate set in Victorian England. The most recent game in the series, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, is set during the Viking raids on England in the Early Middle Ages. Immerse yourself in Viking culture and prepare for battle against the Anglo-Saxons by reading the following recommendations.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he presents his take of Norse myths. Gaiman begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and then delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves and giants. He culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly recreating the characters—the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being tricked and tricking others and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions—and making these long-ago myths breathe life again.
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Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price
The Viking Age–between 750 and 1050–saw an unprecedented expansion of the Scandinavian peoples. As traders and raiders, explorers and colonists, they reshaped the world between eastern North America and the Asian steppe. Based on the latest archaeological and textual evidence, Children of Ash and Elm tells the story of the Vikings on their own terms: their politics, cosmology, art and culture. From Björn Ironside, who led an expedition to sack Rome, to Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, the most traveled woman in the world, Price shows us the real Vikings, not the caricatures they’ve become in popular culture and history.
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The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
This is the story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms. The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman who was captured as a child and raised by the Danes. By the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom and the last English territory), Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. When Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes, and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides.
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The Vikings by Neill Oliver
Archaeologist Neil Oliver ventures beyond the myths about seafaring Norsemen to reveal the true lives of their chieftains, warlords and explorers. The Vikings are infamous for taking no prisoners, relishing cruel retribution and priding themselves on their bloodthirsty skills as warriors. But their prowess in battle is only a small part of their story, which stretches from their Scandinavian origins to America in the West and as far as Baghdad in the East.
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The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker
Ragnvald Eysteinsson, the descendant of kings, grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the younger warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather, Olaf. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to avenge his stepfather’s betrayal, claim his birthright and the woman he loves and rescue his beloved sister, Svanhild. Opportunity may lie with Harald of Vestfold, a young warrior prophesied to one day rule all of Norway.