Keep on Rockin' in the Norse World

By Keep On Rockin' in the Norse World

Keep on Rockin' in the Norse World

By Keep On Rockin' in the Norse World

A collection of unique and unusual works of fiction inspired by ancient Scandinavian (and Finnish) mythology, folklore, and the sagas of yore. Not the usual suspects such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Bernard Cornwell, Rick Riordan, etc. or the various other mainstream titles that might feature an elf or the occasional nod to Odin, but instead an exclusive focus on overlooked/hard-to-find classics and more recent offerings that are quirky, outside the mainstream, or both. These are all books I've read and think are worthwhile (there are some I've read that haven't made the list). The list is in no particular order and in the cases of trilogies/series, mention is given to the first book only, and authors with more than one relevant book or series are likewise represented only once. 

 

Note that a number of titles are not readily available because they are either out of print or are North American releases that aren't well-integrated with Bookshop's UK operations. I have included them in the footer notes instead. These titles are no less worthy; in fact, some of them are the very best (and a few are my own). If you live in the US, you can check out the US-based Bookshop list here: https://bookshop.org/lists/keep-on-rockin-in-the-norse-world

Styrbiorn the Strong

E. R. Eddison

£14.99

Epic adventure of an outcast Swedish king. A classic dating back to the 1920s.

The Long Ships: A Saga of the Viking Age

Frans G. Bengtsson

£10.99 £10.44

Classic historical Viking adventure novel, translated from the original Swedish. Inspiration for the 60's film of the same name.

Nutcase

Tony Williams

£8.99 £8.54

An amazing retelling of The Saga of Grettir the Strong set in a crime-ridden and destitute part of modern-day England.

The Gospel of Loki

Joanne Harris

£9.99 £9.49

One of the most entertaining retellings of the Norse myths. Told from the perspective of Loki, which conceptually is not entirely original (for one example, Lois Tilton did it earlier with the out-of-print Written in Venom). Nonetheless, this is a highly entertaining novel and first in a series.

Children

Bjorn Larssen

£16.08

This is a fantastically clever novel essentially set in the world of the Norse myths (as opposed to the more common trend to solely bring the gods down to either medieval or present day earth). If you know your Eddas, it blends the tales very effectively (foremost Thor’s wedding and the building of the wall) and is narrated by two very different and very engaging children of the gods themselves. A dark story with tidbits of humor throughout, strongly recommended for fans of the whole Norse thing. Also worth checking out is Larssen's Why Odin Drinks, the first part in a new, humorous retelling of the Norse myths.

The Last Berserker: An action-packed Viking adventure

Angus Donald

£8.99 £8.54

An excellent adventure novel and the first in a series set during the formative days of the Carolingian Empire and its attempts to encroach on the Old North. This one provides an exhilarating journey through old Europe from Denmark to France and connects to ancient Germanic folklore in a unique way. Full of action, a total page-turner.

A Mighty Dawn

Theodore Brun

£10.99 £10.44

A conceptually fascinating historical fantasy novel set in ancient Denmark and ancient Sweden featuring a heavy dose of ill-fated romance. I would particularly recommend this one for fans of Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead.

Nordic Hero Tales from the Kalevala

Phd James Baldwin

£8.49 £8.06

Classic and well-told novelization of The Kalevala. Original version's illustrations by N.C. Wyeth are reproduced in this version.

Raven: Blood Eye: (Raven: Book 1): A gripping, bloody and unputdownable Viking adventure from bestselling author Giles Kristian

Giles Kristian

£9.99 £9.49

A very engaging tale full of action and adventure in merry Olde England as a group of vikings scour the land on a particular mission.

The Witch's Heart

Genevieve Gornichec

£8.99 £8.54

A unique and imaginative retelling of the key events of the Norse myths that unifies some of the divergent and unresolved threads found in the ancient tales in the book's central character of Angrboda. Touching and heartfelt (pun not intended).

Not Before Sundown

Johanna Sinisalo

£9.99 £9.49

The story of a man who adopts and attempts to domesticate a wild troll in his hometown of Tampere, Finland. Very adult-oriented. (Released as Troll: A Love Story in the U.S.)

Northern Wrath

Thilde Kold Holdt

£8.99 £8.54

A well-balanced blend of Norse mythology-infused fantasy and action-packed historical adventure fiction. Excellent sense of foreboding fills the entire volume.

Saga: A Novel of Medieval Iceland

Jeff Janoda

£20.64

A very engaging novelization of the segment from Eyrbyggja Saga that involved Snorr's and Arnkel's land dispute and Thorolf's troublesome ghost.

Shadows of the Short Days

Alexander Dan Vilhjalmsson

£12.99 £12.34

This is one of the most original and imaginative novels I've read in quite a long time--it's set in a fantasy world unlike anything else. It's set on the island of Hrímland, which is essentially Vilhjálmsson's name for alternate reality Iceland, and most of the action takes place in and around an alternate reality version of Reykjavík. Hrímland is a place ruled with an iron fist by the Kalmar Union-inspired Kalmar Commonwealth, full of sorcerous energy, and populated not just by humans, but also huldrefolk, raven-folk, and sea people. For fans of all things Norse, there's also draugar, scorn-poles, and an extremely heavy does of seiðr and galdr. It's a heavily Norse magic-inspired, modern-day sort of world, and comes with a touch of steampunk, too.

Vinland

George Mackay Brown

£8.99 £8.54

A historical fiction novel that draws heavily on the Icelandic Vinland Sagas (The Saga of the Greenlanders and The Saga of Erik the Red), about Leif Eriksson’s voyage to Vinland, and Orkneyinga Saga, about the Norse settlement of and conflicts over the Orkney Islands. Most of the book takes place on Orkney itself and progresses via Brown’s immersive prose, focusing on the main character’s desire for peace as the violent struggle for power in Orkney escalates around him.

Kin

Snorri Kristjansson

£9.99 £9.49

A clever, little read that combines Nordic Noir with the Norse world--the book is a murder mystery set on a farm in Viking Age Norway. It's more of a light mystery than a real somber, dark one.

Nordic Tales

Ulla Thynell

£18.99 £18.04

A great collection of Nordic folktales with great illustrations of each.

The following excellent books are, alas, not presently available through Bookshop UK (in some cases, because Bookshop is not set up for certain titles released in North America, in others because they are out of print). My own books appear at top because I'm that sort of person.

 

The Scandinavian Aggressors by Rowdy Geirsson

An offbeat odyssey into the freezing heart of the modern Northlands that uncovers the secret history of the early 21st century's resurgence of authentic viking activity.

 

The Impudent Edda translated by Rowdy Geirsson

The epic conclusion to the 800-year-old Edda Trilogy, translated into English for the very first time.

 

Norse Mythology for Bostonians transcribed by Rowdy Geirsson

The epic conclusion to the 800-year old Edda Trilogy. Transcribed in its original Bostonian language.


Barbarian Lord by Matt Smith

Matt Smith is a good friend of mine, but his graphic novel is excellent in its own right. Great fun for anyone who enjoys the Icelandic Sagas and their dry wit and tendency towards understatement.

 

Swell by Corwin Ericson

A hilarious and bizarre adventure set on an island off the coast of New England that features an antagonistic warrior-maiden, a sour-milk guzzling skald, North Atlantic whale-herding, and additional influences from Finnish mythology. This one was actually a U.S. release but the publisher unfortunately went out of business so it's harder to find now.

 

The Hurricane Party by Klas Östergren

A post-apocalyptic take on the events that set Ragnarök in motion. Set in a grim, futuristic Stockholm and its archipelago. The most imaginative reinvention of the Norse myths I have encountered and, sadly, almost entirely disregarded by the English-language publishing industry. 

 

War of the Gods by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson is better known for his science fiction, but his Norse-inspired fantasy is something special if you can find it. War of the Gods is probably my favourite of his (not available through Bookshop, however). Also worth seeking out are: The Last Viking Trilogy, Mother of Kings, and Hrolf Kraki's Saga

 

Rhinegold by Stephan Grundy

Rhinegold is an out-of-print retelling of The Saga of the Volsungs originally released in 1994 and written by Stephan Grundy, also known as Kveldulf Gundarsson (author of Our Troth and other Germanic religion books). Rhinegold is a fantastic tale; it stays true to the original while conveying it in the format of a modern novel. His writing is effective and descriptive and the book's a joy to read. Very worth picking up if you're the sort of person who is actually reading this list and you manage to find a copy somewhere. But note: at over 800 pages, Rhinegold is not a short read. 

 

The Tower of Beowulf by Parke Godwin

A pretty solid novelization of Beowulf. Certainly worth the read if you like that old story and enjoy 90’s fantasy novels, as it’s very much of that era— highly descriptive as opposed to the more ”lyrical” (vague and less verbose) storytelling found in so many novels of the present century. Some of the details are off (Thor’s chariot is pulled by horses) and Beowulf’s internal conflict a bit too dramatic (”I’ve already died SO MANY times!”) but overall this is a well-told novel that ties the Beowulf legend and Norse mythology together in a well-thought out and compelling manner.

 

Who's Afraid of Beowulf? by Tom Holt

A goofy book but fun book about vikings with a terrible title (it has nothing to do with Beowulf). The premise is pretty simple: a crew of slumbering Norsemen are awoken for the first time in a thousand years when their enchanted burial site is disturbed by present day archaeologists in the north of Scotland. What ensues is a bizarre romp through Britain as the vikings attempt to stop their ancient arch-nemesis, the evil sorcerer-king, from doing something terribly wicked and cruel. A good one for fans of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams.

 

The Gatewatch by Joshua Gillingham

A very fun fantasy novel with a strong nod towards The Hobbit. It's set in a world that is heavily Norse-inspired and full of trollish danger and action dealing with such trolls. Fun through and through.

 

Icelander by Dustin Long

Quirky mystery adventure novel set in the land of fire and ice with Norse trappings.

 

God's Hammer by Eric Schumacher

A solid and well-researched adventure and first in a trilogy about the historic conflict between the first Christian King of Norway, Håkon the Good, and his notorious brother, Eric Bloodaxe. Makes a great companion to Poul Anderson's Mother of Kings, which covers similar historical territory but from the point of view of the pagan Queen Gunnhild.

 

The Ice-Shirt by William T. Vollmann

An epic novelization of the Greenlandic experiment in Vinland that draws on both Norse and Native American myth and legend. The writing style ranges from hypnotic to neurotic.

 

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

The first volume in Scott Oden's trilogy about the anti-hero orc character of Grimnir. Grimnir as a character is hugely entertaining and the book is a great, action-filled adventure of orc vengeance in medieval Denmark, England, and Ireland.

 

Burden to Bear by Gregory Amato

A really fun fantasy novel and the first volume in a new trilogy that takes its inspiration from the whole “northern thing” theme. Unlike many of the other Norse fantasy novels that have been released in recent years, this one isn’t a super somber spiral down into the grim dark pit of despair, but rather more of a traditional action-adventure full of wisecracks and hijinks.

 

The Saga of Adis Raudfeldr by Siobhán Clark

This is a really solid folktale-style book--meaning the narrative is told in a way that is more akin to a traditional folktale or fairytale than is the case for a typical novel. It takes place in the border area between the Norse and Sami (both geographically and culturally, but more culturally), which is a really unique and uncommon setting.

 

The Sagas and Shit by Grayson del Faro

The Sagas and Shit is a not a novel but rather a collections of short stories, each of which is an abbreviated version of a genuine Icelandic saga or Norse myth, told in a very modern-day, slangy, humorous sort of way (something that I, for one, truly appreciate). In addition to the great comedic value found in the text itself, the book is also accompanied by many fun and quirky illustrations. The Sagas and Shit is an English-language book published by a well-established Icelandic publisher, which makes it quite difficult to find outside of its home country.

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