I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
It will surprise no one that everything we think we know about Vikings women dates back to those darn Victorians and their ability to completely Victorian-ize everything.
The island of Birka, not far from Stockholm, is home to a once-busy Viking village, meant to control trade routes around northern Scandinavia. It also happens to be home to hundreds of Viking graves. One grave in particular is of most interest to the author, that of a Viking warrior that was first excavated in 1878. Given the items recovered from the grave and the high-status burial provided, for over one hundred years it has been assumed (by dudes who could not conceive of any other option) that the Birka Warrior was male.
Not so, says the 2017 DNA test.
And from there the author is off and running on a fantastical journey across Europe, imagining what life must have been like for this warrior who lived over hundreds of years ago.
The author does a fantastic job using archaeology, history, and the Norse legends and sagas to bring to light a much more accurate picture of how Vikings women lived, fought, and died. In imagining what life might have been like for this warrior, to whom she gives the name Hervor, the author is able to shed more light on the women of the age who were far more independent than the Victorians would have you believe.
Using the many varieties of sources previously mentioned, the author constructs an example of what life might have been like for young Hervor. Each chapter begins with a segment of Hervor's "story" - a story which sees her cross paths with other formidable women of the age, from Queen Gunnhild to Queen Olga of Kyiv.
While the author has fictionalized what life might have been like for this Birka warrior, each chapter delves deeply into various aspects of life for the real Viking women who lived so long ago. There is extensive research here and the author clearly knows her stuff. The author's knowledge of the sagas and old Norse stories is a wonderful addition to the historical record.