A 10th-century Norwegian jarl’s son lays out the training, gear, and attitude requisite for a proper Viking life (and death).
Young Olaf Sharpaxe is visibly puny next to the exaggeratedly brawny brutes making up the rest of his father’s “hird” (warrior band) in Epelbaum’s cartoon illustrations but sports a comically crazed expression to make up for it. He describes the hard training, the camaraderie, how to choose the best weapons and armor, and life in the jarl’s hall. Following a quick description of a longship, he also supplies step-by-step directions for launching a raid, taking spoils, and, following his father’s death from wounds, how to bury a Viking chief. All of this, plus thumbnail accounts of renowned Viking warriors, Valhalla, and Ragnarok are capped by “Ten Vicious Viking Facts” to take away. For all the ferocity and mighty sword strokes in the pictures, though, there is nary a drop of spilled blood to be seen, and even in the narrative, violence is downplayed: brutal warrior Erik Bloodaxe “was lucky enough to have good skalds (poets) to put a better spin on his dubious deeds.” The co-published How to Live Like a Roman Gladiator is likewise all thrilling posturing with implicit, never explicit, gore.
Bloodthirsty readers may be a little disappointed by these quick stabs at high-interest, if extinct, occupations.(index) (Nonfiction. 7-10)