Cover Image: The Real Valkyrie

The Real Valkyrie

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Member Reviews

I’ve never read a book like this.  It’s nonfiction, but also historical fiction, but also a novel, and a retelling of Norse sagas.  But this book doesn’t try to do to much- the author is in control of the narrative and keeps the reader immersed in the world of Vikings, during a time period when genders didn’t matter and anyone could be a warrior.

It’s clear a large amount of research went into this narrative. It’s dense, but quite readable. I went into this book with little to no knowledge of Vikings beyond bits and pieces learned in popular culture, but after reading this, I sort of feel like I took a full college course on the subject and that I’m well-informed! 

4.5 stars. Thank you to to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for this copy in exchange for my honest review
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I've always been fascinated by Old Norse history, culture, and literature. While there isn't much in the way of archaelogical evidence (in comparison to other historic cultures that are studied) what we do know is always fascinating to read. I enjoyed this book, and the research shows. I have purchased a copy for myself, and I will be recommedning it for my library as there is an interest in this topic.
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A well-researched book regarding women during the Viking age. A lot of interesting information that was new to me. Definitely recommended for anyone with an interest in Scandinavian/Nordic history.
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This book was interesting and very informative. You can tell a lot of research went into the writing of this one. The topic was interesting as well and I enjoyed learning about these women in history. There was so much detail in the book and kept you wanting to read. The author took the subject and made it interesting as a story to read.
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A fascinating historical reassessment of Viking Women and the times in which they lived. This narrative puts women back in the front seat of history where they belong and was utterly fantastic
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4.5 "engrossing, immersive, speculative" stars

Thank you to Netgalley, the author and St. Martin's Press for an e-copy. I am providing my honest review. This was released in August 2021.

This book was a delight to read. Ms. Brown has taken newly found information of a burial of a Viking warrior that has been misgendered. She names this warrior Hervor and we are taken on an absolutely thrilling journey and guided into her-story through a re-examination of Viking sagas, historical thought and archaeological findings. Ms. Brown creates a plausible interpretation of what it was like to be a female warrior in pre-Christian Viking times circa 8th to 10th century.

Ms. Brown takes on a thrilling journey of what a possible life was this female warrior and she explores the history of Scandinavia, Ireland, Estonia and deep into Central Asia. She describes the weaponry, food and customs. We learn about both industrial and domestic arts and the roles of the royalty, warrior class and peasantry. She does not shy away from the brutalities, cruelties and slave trading as well as the revelry and family structures. The tapestry is woven and we begin to see that this brutal harsh life was also exciting, thrilling and full of adventure.

An absolutely exciting and educational read. Thanks for all your efforts Ms. Brown !
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i really enjoyed reading this, this was a great nonfiction book, it was fascinating to learn about these warrior women. It was a informative read and very well researched.
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When I was initially invited to read this one, I was actually shocked that it wasn't already on my radar! While I may not have read a lot of nonfiction (or fiction) about the Vikings, I am indeed interested in this part of history that I am not as familiar with. And the angle specific to women's roles really added to the appeal for me.

In 2017, in Birka, an unearthed Viking warrior burial site that had always thought to contain a male warrior, was proven to be a female warrior after DNA testing was completed. Using this discovery as a foundation, Brown partly fictionalizes this woman warrior, using known histories (such as they are - Middle Age oral histories and traditions transcribed), myths and legends of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Ireland mainly. The book contains a lot of fascinating information (though my copy made me Google for my own images and maps). There are even some funny stories alongside the violence, bloodshed and ruthless war actions. I think an audio version would have also been satisfying.

But, I must admit that the hybrid of nonfiction/speculative fiction was not my cup of tea. I wanted things to be a bit more concrete, though I do understand the scarcity of sources in some ways requires more imagination is used. I do feel like this would be a great resource for those looking to start their own research to write a novel set in this time period. And for whatever reason, though I am not typically a reader who falls asleep while reading, this book had the uncanny ability to almost immediately make my eyelids heavy - I am not sure if it was just because the approach rubbed me the wrong way... I think I would have preferred it to have been one or the other - a drier, more factual read or an out-and-out novel based on this discovery. Combining the two into one book just didn't work for me - though I did find myself sharing snippets of this with whoever happened to be near me when I was reading it. I hope that more discovery takes place to more firmly get a view on the real role of women during this time.
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From the first moment I started The Real Valkyrie, I was fascinated. It upends any ideas that someone might have about Viking women fitting into the gender roles that were prevalent across most of Europe at the time. Instead, Nancy Marie Brown shows that it's much more likely that there were Viking women warriors and imagines what the life of one of them might have been. She looks at a specific Viking woman's grave and nicknames the woman Hervor, using a mix of archeological findings and Norse mythology and poetry to build out what her life might have been. 

It's a lot more speculative than your average history book and yet, because of the lack of evidence, it works well. It can be a bit repetitive and could have been condensed to be shorter, but she shares an almost historical fiction narrative at the beginning of each chapter that helps keep the reader engaged. It's a bit looser history than the very academic works I'm used to reading for my public history graduate program, but I think it's definitely more readable because of that. 

Thanks to NetGallery, Nancy Marie Brown, and St. Martin's Press for the advanced copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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A solid 4 stars. If you are interested in history, especially Norse, then you will find this book a fascinating read. I really enjoyed the closer examination of the old sagas and physical evidence found under the microscope of new information from research. The only drawback for me was I sometimes found the chapters a little too long (but fascinating!).

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the advanced copy. My opinions are my own and not influenced by anyone. Ever.
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This was a well-researched book and very fascinating read. The details within the book of the gravesites, their lives using weapons and tools really provides an interesting read of the women in the Viking age.  I highly recommend this to my friends and family who enjoy a well-written history book that talks about a different take on Norse history. Thank you to St. Martin's Press/MacMillan and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advanced copy.
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Overall, this was interesting but I will say you have to be really into the history of Vikings and all of its facets (including the routes they took while sailing and how they made clothing) to keep your attention throughout the entirety of the book. The structure of the author’s narrative of Hervor juxtaposed to the history behind the author’s imagninings to be creative and gave it a sense of direction. The many names included made reading confusing at times and some information I wasn’t interested in, but the author’s overarching message was clear and well supported. 

Thank you to the publisher for the complimentary copy. All views expressed are my own.
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A 10th-century Valkyrie tomb is excavated in 1878 in Sweden.  A skeleton with a sword among other things found in the tomb.  There was the assumption that the skeleton was male.  In 2017, DNA was taken from the bones of the skeleton with the result of the skeleton being a female not a male.  With this information the author has written a story about a woman named Hervor born to a noble family in Norway.  She was separated early from her parents due to warfare.  She grew up up a ward of the Viking queen.  Hervor was trained to be a warrior.  She did do raiding.  Hervor became an armed protector of a merchant ship.  When she died, she was buried as a warrior.

It’s a fascinating read.  I can’t help but wonder why it was assumed that women were not fighters but less.  This is the thesis of the author’s work.  She also offers the Viking mythology and their gods.  It is an excellent lesson in Old Norse culture and history.
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I love reading about women in history, so of course I jumped at the chance to read a book about Viking women warriors. As Brown points out, most warriors whose graves are found have long thought to be men, associating grave items like game boards and weapons to me and “domestic” tools and jewelry to women. However, more recent studies have shown this isn’t necessarily true. Brown’s whole book challenges the idea that Valkyrie were not simply mythological figures, although they may have been integrated into Norse myths; women could be great warriors, too, and weren’t necessarily rare.   In The Real Valkyrie, Brown imagines the life of “Hervor,” a warrior buried at Birka, whose grave shows the warrior was highly revered and successful, and was long thought a man until research revealed otherwise. Each chapter begins with the next part in the life of the imagined Hervor (the warrior at the Birka grave) before giving details about a certain part of Viking life, from trade routes to feasting halls and artisanship.  I love that Brown chose to intersperse historically-based storytelling into her nonfiction. It’s not something I’ve really seen (although creative nonfiction is newer to me), so although I think her creative writing wasn’t quite as captivating in its style and I’m not a huge fan of present tense, it was a cool touch I can definitely appreciate. It’s not my favorite read out of the “women in history” nonfiction I’ve read this year but it does make me want to look more into the topic and also read more creative nonfiction.
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"In 2017, DNA tests revealed to the collective shock of many scholars that a Viking warrior in a high-status grave in Birka, Sweden was actually a woman." This sentence immediately grabbed my attention! Fortunately I was accepted to read the ARC in exchange for a non-biased review. There was so much detail it was obvious from the start that the author has an in depth knowledge and understanding of the Vikings and their lives. She uses research in archeology, history and science to show that Viking women as warriors and adventurers were held in equally high regard as the men. The author really has a grasp on Viking sagas and history and she really has a knack for keeping the reader engaged. I look forward to reading more of her work. 
I would like to thank Net Galley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC.
4.5*
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Loved this look into the world of Vikings! The framing devices took me a minute to ease into, but I ended up loving it: we get a dramatic look at the imagined life of the woman warrior found in the mound at Birka, which no only provides a great access point to look into the lives of people in that era, but also reminds us that the way we view history is different when looking at an age of artifacts instead of an age of first hand accounts.
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The Real Valkyrie draws in readers from the first pages.  Nancy Marie Brown is a fantastic writer - this is the first book I have read but certainly not the last of hers.  She begins by discussing the 2017 discovery that the grave of a Viking warrior presumed to be a man is actually an honored Viking woman.  'Experts' didn't bother to look at the bones but previously presumed the grave must have been for a man since it contained warrior implements.  Brown's book is super interesting and counters the misogynist narrative of most history books.  Through stories and research, Brown shows the true impact of women in the Viking culture.  Brilliant and thoughtful book!
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I was given a copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I loved how the author used a real grave found and made a story about what the woman buried there may have gone through, then backed up the story she made with facts and other saga stories. This made for a very entertaining read while being educational. Highly recommend for anyone interested in this topic. I will definitely be buying a finished copy to keep and read again. (Never thought I would say I would be reading any non-fiction book again voluntarily, but here I am.)
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This books encompasses was a scientific, archeological, and historical tour of female Vikings - not just warriors, but aspects of all women's lives during this time. The approach to writing this was sound and interesting - start with one very important discovery of an elaborate tomb in Birka and build a story around that. Unfortunately, I felt that the many and long references to Norse mythology and poetry just provided distractions for readers. I had to skim over those sections as I felt like they didn't really add much to the story after a time. I understand why the author kept them in the book to help support her theories of who these women were any why they made the life choices they did, but it was just a bit much about 1/4 of the way into the book. Regardless, I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Viking history.
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The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women by Nancy Marie Brown is such an intriguing and fascinating book.  Nancy Marie Brown completed much research and included it in the details of the story of Hervor, a female Viking.  In 2017, bones were found in a burial site near Birka, Sweden.  A DNA analysis was done and it is believed that the bones were those of a female Viking warrior which shocked many scholars beliefs of the warriors.  As was the custom, important weapons and tools were also found in the grave.  Brown describes in such detail of what Hervor's life must have been like that it is easy to imagine life then and what Hervor may have encountered.  Brown is very knowledgable about Viking history and she uses her knowledge to tell the story of Hervor.  The book changes the dialogue of how Vikings are perceived and how women could be revered as warriors.

Thank you to Net Galley and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to read the ARC of this very enjoyable book.
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