Cover Image: The Real Valkyrie

The Real Valkyrie

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The Real Valkyrie by N.M. Brown is a stand-alone non-fiction historical book. After reading the blurb I was intrigued and really wanted to read this book. But sadly it's not what I expected. I expected to be led into the colorful world of the first century with their rich history, the nordic mythology too and was hoping just a bit for something like Lagherta's story from Vikings - just a tiny bit. Nope, that is a bonedeep dry lesson in history, a dustdry scientific lecture where I learned not much. Viking women were warriors?? Gasps - nope, nothing new, I already new this, even learned about it in school. When you like reading about bones and graves, their excavation, DNA testing and results - this is your story. So I really, really wanted to like the book, but this was a dnf for me.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you NetGalley, St. Martin's Press and Author for this widget to The Real Valkyrie by Nancy 

I usually tend to not read non-fiction books. So when I was sent this I thought what the heck!. 
I'm going to give it a go. 
And I'm here to say this read blew me away. 

This novel will be interesting for those who enjoy reading about Viking women! 
Nancy uses written documents, new tools and evidence to the Viking world of the tenth century that warrior woman were powerful back then and women had equal rights. 
This will be great for schools also. 
This is a fascinating read, I thought it was powerful, empowering, thought-provoking and just all.around freaking amazing! 
The writing was superb, well-written, well-researched, outstanding novel that I couldn't be torn from! 

Again I can't thank the lady enough at St. Martin Press for this widget! 
You had me read and enjoy a book I would have never read! 😘

I will post to my Goodreads, bookstagram and Facebook accounts closer to pub date!
Was this review helpful?
I found this to be an intriguing work of creative nonfiction.  The author alternates between an imagined biography of an individual from a real Viking burial with scholarly explanations based on the archaeological evidence and reading ''between the lines' of the Viking sagas.  I found her assumptions compelling and the biography entertaining.  The only reason I didn't it a full 5 stars is because I liked the character so much that I would have preferred to read more detail in the imagined biography.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Netgalley for the ARC. I really liked this book! It was informative and yet was written in an engaging way that kept me reading till the end. I will be recommending my library to purchase it. The imagining of the time period I thought was well done and kept my interest. I thought it was  engrossing   It really made me think about what a woman went through and I am always interested in books that celebrate the contribution of women through history. I remember hearing about the news in 2017 but didn't dig deeper. The combination of history and  what it might have been like for a women in that time period. from the perspective of a woman of the time.  I used to think that Valkyries were just a character in fantasy books that I had read. I am glad that I read this. There are other books out there that tell the stories of women in history and this is one that must be read. This is a book to include in any Women's History Month display!
Was this review helpful?
Is it history? Is it historical fiction? Whatever the classification, this book is wholly immersive and I cannot praise it enough. From pinpointing the sanitization of Viking women’s history (spoiler alert: it’s those darned Victorians) to spotlighting what the actual history may, in fact, be, this book is the best of both history and historical fiction; it transports the reader to a bygone era.

Highly, highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Nancy Marie Brown has done a wonderful job of investigating the mystery of the role that women played in Viking Age warfare. Using the remains of an uncovered warrior whom she names Hervor, Brown takes us through the Viking Age from the lens of this female warrior. In this world we see the standard gender roles that we assume were common for the time debunked as Brown shows almost all were equal in this time when speaking of gender.. Fans of the character Lagertha from The History Channel’s hit series Vikings will find it fascinating to read and see what it may have been like to be a woman and a warrior in the Viking Age and even see an anicdote on the real Lagertha herself. It is even more fascinating to see how the concept of “shield maidens” may have came into existence. Combining fascinating detective work with amazing scholarship I highly praise Brown’s ability to bring the real valkyries to life.
Was this review helpful?
The Real Valkyrie by Nancy M Brown is wonderfully written, the writing is done professional with every being backed up with facts found. Its so interesting to learn about women Vikings and Nancy worked so hard to create these stories off of the scientific data found. The information paints such a different perspective and story from what was previously thought of Viking women in this time period and it is mind blowing all the things they were able to do and the stature they possessed in society. They were respected and even feared. Thank you Nancy for taking the time to gather the research and paint a beautifully and well written story from the past.
Was this review helpful?
Quick: what do you imagine when you think of a Viking? Blond. Ox horns sticking out of metal helmets. Warriors. Male.

Much of that is wrong--at least, that's the case Nancy Marie Brown makes in The Real Vaklyrie, a paradigm-shifting look at late 10th-century Vikings.

The research at the base of Brown's book is surprising but not new. In 2017, archeologists investigating a trove of Viking burials at the site of Birka on an island west of Stockholm, found a remarkably preserved warrior's grave, which they labeled "Bj581."

Among the artifacts inside were a sword, a battle axe, and a gameboard. The surprise came when DNA from the skeleton was tested: the warrior was a Woman! (In fact, genetic testing would go on to identify female remains in about 40% of the warrior burials at Birka.

Brown stretches the word, "real," in her account of the warrior. In each chapter, she focuses on one element of the grave, mixes in research and archaeology, and sprinkles in details from the Nordic sagas to bring to life a warrior named Hervor, placing her at crucial sites of activity, which stretch from Dublin to the Orkney Islands, to mainland Norway and Sweden, then on to Estonia, the land of the Rus (Russia) and Kiev.

Each chapter begins with a fictional account of Hervor and closes with the evidence--both from the sagas and the science--behind Brown's characterization. To be honest, some of the research bogged down the story--I worked to get through the specifics of cloth weaving, for example, or the forging of a sword--but there's a point to the minutiae: total immersion in the life of a warrior woman at the height of the Viking Era.

As Hervor's voyages stretched ever wider, my interest grew: new perspectives on the far corners of Europe, populated by these viking raiders (but I repeat myself--one of my favorite lines of the book was "Vikings weren't a race, they were a job description").

I didn't come to The Real Valkyrie with a great knowledge of the Viking Era. I read the book, thanks to NetGalley, and I looked forward to the review I might write. So here it is: I left the reading of TRV with a wealth of new knowledge about Vikings, and a completely new way of thinking about who it was who really set wooden shields on the sides of ships, wore the funny helmets, and sailed the seas and rivers from Vinland to Kiev.
Was this review helpful?
<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>Review copy provided by the publisher.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->

<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>I found this book both interesting and frustrating.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->

<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>Interesting, because there was a lot of good solid information about textiles and trading. Much archaeology, lots of reconstruction! If you want the details of what kinds of paint substrates were being used in the Viking era, Nancy Marie Brown has your back. I do in fact want that. I want that a lot. So this is very useful to me. I expect to some of you also.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->

<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>Frustrating, because she is very much willing to make assumptions based on herself personally and go galloping forth with them. There is a little note after the main body of the book where she blithely <em>tells the reader</em> that Neil Price<em> encouraged her</em> to take a complex view of gender and she decided not to do so. <em>Oh really</em>, says this reviewer. <em>Well, isn't that a choice you made</em>.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->

<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>In Brown's favor, she is willing to revisit previous positions when there is evidence that they are utter nonsense. Unfortunately this means that there are long sections of this book where the person she is arguing with is not me, not Neil Price, not any of a great number of other people who have been thinking thinky thoughts about the Viking era and gender for decades now (I have restrained myself from listing half a dozen personal friends in this location), but in fact...Previous Version Nancy Marie Brown. For example she says out loud! without prompting! that she personally did not used to believe in women <em>wanting</em> to fight with swords, which was so phenomenally stupid that I nearly shut the book and went off to go reread Neil Price instead. It's always possible to consider other people having preferences unlike oneself, the more so when they are removed from oneself by an entire millennium, sort it out before you visit it upon the rest of us in several published volumes.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->

<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>But really there's quite a lot of useful stuff about dyes and paint substrates and that. Even if her "reconstructed" fiction sections demonstrate why she is not a fiction writer. If you're thinking of a project in this era you might well want it just for what furs are common where and so on. If you take it all with a grain of salt about how willing this particular author is to generalize from the particular person she has closest to hand.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->
Was this review helpful?
This is a fascinating trip back in time. When watching the Viking TV series, I mostly assumed that the prevalent role that women played was exaggerated for a modern audience. Thanks to The Real Valkyrie, I now know that’s not the case. What we think about Vikings is mostly based on assumptions from the Victorian era, so that’s why female warriors were thought to be ficticious. Thanks to the latest scientific advances, it is now possible to figure out that the bodies in many warrior tombs are women. Using a one such burial, the author imagines what this real person was like, and how she lived. She names her Hervor, and combines the stories from sagas with historical facts to give us a complete idea of these women’s daily lives. From domestic environments to war, Brown writes in an easy-to-follow style. There is mythology, history, art and maybe a little too much detail in some places, like how they weaved their clothing. What an inspiring read for women!
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/ St. Martin's Press!
Was this review helpful?
Awesome, weed read!!! A Great peek into strong female culture of the past hidden or dismissed for a long time. A great read for Viking enthusiasts as well as those interested in the role of women in the past!!
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved this book! I’ve always had a fascination with the Viking history and this book is devoted to the Valkyrie... Viking Warrior Women!!! It is truly an enjoyable read and a well researched book for anyone with an interest in Viking history! 

** Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review! **

#PamelaReads2021 #100BooksIn2021 #TheValkyrie #VikingWarriorWomen    #NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
This is an object lesson in how our own prejudices and shortsightedness impacts our view of the historical record - even in light of compelling evidence to the contrary. This is a well researched and compelling history of the real women warriors of the viking era, whose histories have been effaced by historians of the recent past.
Was this review helpful?
This was an interesting and compelling read about the history of the Viking warriors and that the strongest were probably women. I read Captivating History's The Vikings, and it did not mention one word about Viking women warrior, which was disappointing. Glad I found this! You can tell the author is passionate about the subject and kept her facts and observations honest/genuine. 

I liked this more than I thought I would and thought this was going to be dull AF, it was not. Told in a narrative fashion like Nathan Philbrick and Rob Chernow's nonfiction favorites.

Highly recommended for people interested in ancient and early history.

Thanks to Netgalley, Nancy Marie Brown and St Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Available: 8/31/21
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Nancy Marie Brown for a well researched and thought out book.  It's a thought provoking read that challenges gender rolls.  What if is a powerful question and one that needs to be asked more often. Hervor's story is compelling.  Thank you for stretching my mind!
Was this review helpful?
This is a very engaging read. I appreciated the weaving together of fact and fiction to provide a close-to-realistic-as-possible representation of a Viking-age woman. The depth of research that went into this book is evident when reading, and it adds an authoritative tone to the text overall. Added to that authoritative tone is that the Real Valkyrie is written by a woman, and really, that is most appropriate when it comes to writing about women of the past.
Was this review helpful?
The Real Valkyrie is an engaging piece of scholarship, revisiting the history of Viking exploration, conquest, and culture. The book centers Viking women, showing their essential roles in Viking culture while exposing the flawed conventional narrative which relegates them to supportive domestic roles, or imaginary mythology, while minimizing Viking women's actual extensive participation in political leadership, military strategy, and armed combat. Brown's innovative method integrates occasional fictional extrapolation, with detailed presentation of scholarly research. The result is a readable, fascinating story which corrects historical inaccuracies we've inherited from Victorian anthropology, giving voice to the "real Valkyries" of European history.
Was this review helpful?
This was an interesting book. It is part history, part archaeology, and part historical fiction. The author begins each chapter with an excerpt from the story of Hervor, the name she assigned to the female warrior skeleton. These vignettes are based on Viking sagas and provide a fictionalized account of the life Hervor may have led. I found them enjoyable.  They captured my attention and piqued my interest in the nonfictional content presented in the chapter. They also kept the book from becoming too dry while breaking up the extensive amount of factual information. This format was a very effective way to make history accessible to readers who are not necessarily historians. 
This book is well-researched and very thorough. Anyone studying, or otherwise interested in, the Viking period would be delighted with the wealth of information presented in this book. It offers fascinating insights into the lives of Vikings and those with whom they interacted. 
I particularly enjoyed the chapters which focused on textiles, clothing, dyes, and other forms of personal adornment. This is an area of personal interest, and I was very pleased that the author devoted considerable attention to this topic. 
This book would make an excellent reading assignment for a university course on Vikings, the Dark Ages or European history. There is plenty of material here to spark academic discussion.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ACR in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This is a must read for anyone interested in Viking women! Absolutely fascinating.

In the 1800s archeologists unearthed a Viking burial site in Sweden and originally concluded the grave to be for a man. In 2007 DNA tasted showed that the Viking was a woman, not a man, which greatly changed our views of Viking gender roles..This book explores the science behind the archeology in a way that will be of interest to anyone who likes knowing how archeologists work as well as the modern bias that caused such mistakes as the incorrect sexing of such burial sites.

However, this book uses the burial site to not only tell us what we discovered about this woman and how it changed our perspective on the Vikings, but gives us a fictional take on what her life may have looked like based on the findings. This leads to a mix of fiction and non-fiction that work well together to build the story surrounding this burial site to bring Hervor's story to life.

This book explores the gender roles of Vikings and how they changed over time thanks to thinks like the influence of Christianity. Norse myths are also explored, adding fun bits for those who love mythology and what it says about a culture. Really great red for anyone interested in the kind of lives Viking women lived.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?