Review: The Long Ships, Frans G. Bengtsson

Rating: 5 out of 5

I absolutely loved this book and there are no excuses as to why I had to take five days to write about it. It reminded me the adventure novels that one reads as a child; the language is so reminiscent of those wonderful stories! Mr Bengtsson’s work also touched upon something else: I can’t remember how long it has been since I’ve read something where the chapter titles tell you what’s going to happen in that chapter. It felt so wonderfully friendly that I can only recommend this book!

The protagonist is a Swedish fellow called Orm (and the name of the book in Swedish is ‘Red Orm’) who is accidentally captured and brought along on an expedition to find wealth and riches. Naturally, not everything goes as expected and the reader is shown what 10th century Iberia was like. Afterwards, nascent England and Kiev are other subjects of the story with much of the in between time spent describing how life in Sweden proceeded.

It is delightful to see the Norse sailors as free of prejudice against things they don’t understand, with ‘luck’ the main issue of the day: does something bring weather-luck or weapon-luck, gold-luck or sea-luck. This simple attitude is at once both incredibly refreshing as well as healthy, allowing Orm to worship different gods while the author describes why Orm was doing so.

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