Cover Image: The Real Valkyrie

The Real Valkyrie

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The Real Valkyrie mixes history with fictional conjecture to tell the story of Hervor, a Viking age woman warrior. The discovery of the warrior jn a grave at Birka was long thought to be a prime example of a traditional viking warrior burial. However, with modern DNA sequencing, history has to rewritten as the warrior was discovered to be a woman and not a man as originally thought.

Nancy Marie Brown takes us on a fictional, yet historically based journey of this warrior woman and shows us what life was like during the 10th century in Scandinavia and beyond. 

What I found most interesting was Brown’s focus on the East Way. We have all heard the Viking raids on British and Irish monasteries, but Vikings traveling the trade routes and settling parts of modern day Russia are less commonly told tales.

Definitely a must read for fans of Norse History and Womens Studies. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this free advanced reader’s ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley! Thank you! 

"Mercilessness is not a masculine trait." 

The Real Valkyrie is a fictionalized historical exploration of the role of warrior women in the Viking Age. The introduction bring in Brown's heroine, the remains of a woman warrior laid to rest with great fanfare and property outside the gates of Birka, Sweden, whom Brown names "Hervor" after the hero of Viking-age Hervor's Saga. This introduction really pulled me in right away. I loved the analysis of the archeological site and the genetic analysis performed on the remains. 

Each chapter opens with a fictionalized scene drawn from historical sources in which Brown imagines what the life of Hervor may have been like as she encounters other strong women of the time period and various contexts in which a warrior woman may have lived. 

Overall, the strength of this book is its dynamism and comfort with historical sources. It is an exciting read, evoking the high adventure of the Vikings through Brown's vibrant writing style and historical knowledge. The author has a long and successful career working with this material and really brings it to life. Viking-lovers and fans of the recent TV show will learn a lot from the alternate histories the author draws out. I think fans of Brown's previous work will also be enthralled. 

As it deals with historical sources about the Vikings, this book can be quite violent and also frequently mentions sexual assault and enslavement. I did not always follow which bits were coming from historical fact and which portions were Brown's fictionalized interpretations. Still, she manages to tell a sweeping narrative covering a lot of new ground. It leaves me with some things to think about, such as the complexity of the role of the Sàmi peoples in this story and about pronoun-shifting Vikings such as Harvard/Hervor (Issues of gender and sexuality in the sagas). Are Valkyrie and women vikings comparable categories?
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I found this book very interesting and neat! Lots of historical evidence about the real warrior women of the Viking/Nordic cultures. It shows just how important these figures were to the culture and how this empowered the women of the Viking times.
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I received an arc of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review 
. A thought provoking mix of fact and fiction concerning the female role in Viking history. I always enjoy books on Viking history and this was no exception.
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In 1889, in Birka, Sweden, a former site of a Viking trading center, archaeologists find a warrior’s burial chamber. With the amount and array of weapons, valuables, horses, this must have been a great Viking warrior.

Imagine the surprise when in 2017, DNA tests revealed that this high-ranking Viking warrior was a woman.

Viking women didn’t hold the keys to the larder and keep the house. Viking women carried weapons. They carry shields into battle next to their male counterparts. They are heroes. Poems are written about them.

Ms. Brown uses science to link Hervor, to the other Viking trading centers and to the entire trade route. She tells a story of Hervor meeting with the likes of Queen Gunnhild, The Red Girl, and Queen Olga. Hervor didn’t live a long life but she packed a lot into it.

There is so much misinformation from writers in an entirely different era than the Vikings. Mostly by men who have relegated women to the hearth. This well-written and well-researched work shake that old perception off. Women held power and as the author imagines what her life would have been like, she brings the valkyries alive.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The history, the “what ifs”, and the research that went into this beautiful work. Being of Norwegian descent it confirms many of the tales I was told as a child by my grandmother. It was a pleasure to read.

NetGalley/ August 31st, 2021
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A Tenth Century grave found in 1878, in Birka, Sweden had all of the weaponry and artifacts, including the bones of two horses, that confirmed it was a Viking warrior who was laid to rest.  For over 100 years, the presumption was of a strong MALE warrior.    In 2017, DNA results proved that the bones were FEMALE.  After attacks on the presumption that the woman had ever been a warrior, the DNA testing team defended themselves in 2019 stating that “... at least one Viking Age woman adopted a professional warrior lifestyle....” and “[W]e would be very surprised if she was alone in the Viking world.”

Author Nancy Marie Brown has taken the evidence at hand to make a very convincing argument that the woman warrior buried in Birka, Sweden was not an anomaly at all, but one of many that Christianized Scandinavian lore has glossed over.  In the narrative about this unnamed Viking woman, Brown names her Hervor and creates a possible story of Hervor’s life based upon what is known about the Viking world of the tenth century.

Even though my parents were very interested in the Vikings and I was exposed to Viking/Scandinavian history my entire life, I learned a tremendous amount from this book.  I did not know that many of the Vikings dressed themselves in flamboyant silks from trading with the east, nor did I know about Queen Gunnhild Mother-of-Kings or about Queen Olga of Kyiv.  I strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Viking history or Women’s Studies.    

A big thank you to author Nancy Marie Brown, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review an advance copy of this book.
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Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read this book in advance in return for an honest review! 

I cannot get enough of history books, I adore learning about cultures and lives before our own...and who doesn't love learning about Vikings!? This book revolves around one specific Viking though, a woman buried in grave Bj581. With each chapter we learn more about her life and the lives of those around her at the time she was alive (around the late 900s). 

Nancy Marie Brown is an amazing writer. I was captivated by her use of "fictional" story to portray the woman buried in Bj581 and what could have been her life, while then writing facts about how life was at that time. It is amazing to me how much information has been changed later on in order to suit the patriarchy. Women were not just kept at home and worrying about children, and this book is a wonderful example of what lives women DID live during this time period. 

I thought I knew a lot about Vikings, but this book will definitely smash the stereotypes and prove how life as a Viking was not what we see in movies. As a woman myself, I found reading this empowering and inspiring! Hearing about what women could do back then as well as Brown herself being able to uncover all this data to this day, really showed how life was not just all men doing things out and about. Women had lives too, and very FULL lives. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a history buff, anyone who wants to know a TRUE glimpse into the lives of Vikings, as well as to any woman who wants to be inspired by a really badass Viking woman! 10/10 !
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I received an ebook from Netgalley for an honest review.

This book is an amazing weave of well-researched and compelling facts with engrossing fiction. I truly love the focus on strong and powerful Viking women. Hervor's story will stick with me long after reading this book. Truly a must read!
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Overall I was really disappointed with this and think I would have preferred to consume this through an audiobook.  I enjoyed the book going into detail about gender roles and the fluidity of these roles during Viking times but the book was really hard to get through.
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I don't read enough on the Norse and this book proves it. In a word, it was WONDERFUL to read. I was entirely taken in by this story, much of it I had no clue about. This is going to be a nice addition to my shelf.
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I'm one of those people who love to read anything history but one of my favorite types is those that show a realistic female presence. Instead of making them ALWAYS housewives, the people look at actual history and science and figure out the truth. This book solidified my dislike of organized religion but that's a rant for another day. I love how the author wove the sagas with factual based interpretations of this Shield-Maid's life. Brown was given a base knowledge of age, locations throughout her life, and what this warrior was buried with and created a realistic human. The way this is written is very accessible as well. My primary focus in history is generally Russian way past the Viking Age but this still made complete sense to me without further research.  I know how intimidating history books can be because you don't know where to start your research. I found this to be an interesting and I think it could be a great start to Viking Age research. This would give you the perspective that you can't trust history to show you the women.
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I originally thought this book was going to be a historical fiction, but it appeared to have more fact than fiction as it showed how the author had experience connecting historical perspectives along with the storytelling about Hervor's life. I think many of us have preconceived ideas of Viking society and I found this book to be refreshing in how it educates the reader to a new perspective while giving engaging depth to the information. If you enjoy historical writing, this book is certainly going to interest you - but even for those who don't believe themselves to be avid history buffs but enjoy learning even a little bit more about historical societies will find this a worthwhile read!
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This book explores the role of women in Viking society.  It begins with bones which were discovered in 1878.  The bones were originally assumed to be male as the items found with the bones were of the sort that were usually buried with war leaders and it was assumed that the legend of women who went to war was a myth.  This mistake was discovered when DNA testing was done in 2017.
The author draws together many sources to weave a narrative that suggests that in Viking society the sexes were  much more equal than popular tales would suggest.  The warrior woman had been discounted as myth, in part because these discoveries were viewed through societies in which women kept house while the men went to war.  She also uses a lot of the tales and narratives of the North which had even earlier been tales which were passed down through the ages.
I knew little but the images of a large red-headed man with flowing locks wearing metal and leather armor. It was nice to see another perspective and gain a little more balanced view of Viking society.  The author took what could have been a dry factual account and gave it some depth with the various that a life might have gone.
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I am a true fan of Nancy Marie Brown. I hope one day to visit Iceland to see the ponies she described in an earlier work. Her writing is so descriptive I can see, hear, smell and taste the air in the places and objects she writes about. 

I have seen some of the skeletons that have historically been identified as male, and have more recently been tentatively identified as female, with just a cursory exploration of the reasons for their burial with weapons. Nancy Marie Brown vividly brings the story of these warrior women to life. The depth of her research and breadth of her knowledge are apparent. 

I look forward to many more books from Nancy Marie Brown!
Thank you
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Brilliantly imagined, brilliantly executed.  This is one of the best, most creative history books I have read.  The author begins each chapter with an episode of fiction, clearly invented, but which provides a unique humanizing perspective on the topic covered in the chapter.  Each chapter the provides the substantive historical facts based on archeological evidence and source documents, supporting and enhancing the conclusions of the author.  The topic of the book, of course, is that females in the viking era were not simply wives and mothers, spinning wool and keeping the home fires burning while the men went a viking.  In fact, they were warriors and traders in their own right.  But what was most thought provoking for me was the realization that we draw our conclusions and make finds and theories shape our expectations of the current world, even if the historical world had little in common with our own.  It made me wonder what inherent biases I bring to my conclusions and my life.  In short, this is the best of books:  thought provoking and entertaining, well written and well researched.  Not to be missed.
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Well researched and thought out. Tracing the life of Hervor helped me to connect to the information, as personal narratives are always compelling. I especially appreciated the emphasis on how society's biases can color our historiography and view of history. I can definitely use this in my World History and Gender Studies classes.
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(<b>Note:</b> I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley)

In 1889, at the site of the Viking trading center in Birka, Sweden, a long-dead warrior’s burial chamber was found, complete with an impressive array of weapons and valuables. However, a far greater discovery would occur well over 100 years after her initial unearthing when DNA analysis showed her to be a woman. 

It’s this mysterious and intriguing figure who takes center stage in "The Real Valkyrie". Based upon what has been scientifically documented from modern analysis of her remains and the artifacts that the warrior was discovered with, plus a combination of Viking literature and other tools from the historical record author Nancy Marie Brown goes on to construct a story of what this woman’s life might have been like. And as she weaves her tale from chapter to chapter, she touches upon many aspects of life during the Viking era and ends up revealing a world that, amongst many aspects, was a surprisingly diverse one amongst its various warbands, free towns, and kingdoms, and possessed considerable cosmopolitan streaks thanks to a surprisingly large international reach through both raiding and trading that stretched from Ireland to the Silk Road. However, central and most important is Brown’s revelations of a Viking world where the women and men were by no means contained to strict gender roles, especially when it came to picking up a sword. 

To say the least, the new perspective that the author provides sends something of a battering ram crashing into long-held misconceptions, and I for one could not possibly be more for it. Brown’s creatively realistic imagining of the kind of life that the Birka warrior might have lived finally gives a voice to what seems to be quite a sizable number of similar women who for hundreds of years have long been written off as mere legend or fantasy. And by showing the Viking era to be far more complex than what traditional historical lenses have made it out to be, she also reveals a time and culture that frankly is all far more fascinating than most of us have been able to realize until now.. "The Real Valkyrie" is strongly recommended to anyone currently on the hunt for an eye-opening read.
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I received the ARC in exchange for honest review. 
This was thought provoking and a well researched. I enjoyed goinf into detail about gender roles and the fluidity of these roles during Viking times. While the story of Hervor is fictional, the research and conclusions drawn are logical and quite possible. This is an excellent addition to the topic and an much needed take on women during the period.
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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

In 2017, DNA analysis was used on the bones found in an important burial site previously unearthed in Birka, Sweden. These bones are believed to be those of a Viking warrior due to the weapons and other tools found within the grave. Scholars were then shocked to learn that these bones belonged to a female. The Real Valkyrie does a fantastic job of using science and archaeology to show that Viking women had more agency than we have previously believed. Brown does an excellent job imaging what the life of the warrior found in Birka, who she names Hervor, might have been like. She uses her expansive knowledge of Viking history and sagas to bring the 10th century Viking world and society to life. The Real Valkyrie shows how modern assumptions and biases have shaped what we think about Viking women more than real data and facts have.

This is a well-researched and thought provoking book. While discussing what Hervor's story may have been, Brown shows off her incredible story-telling skills as well. This is an aspect of the book that I really enjoyed. She images how Hervor's life might have intersected with other amazing Viking women such as Queen Gunnhild Mother-of-Kings, Queen Olga, and other figures. It's very enjoyable and engaging to read through. I recommend it to anyone interesting Viking society and history, as well as the history of women. It provides great insight into the subject and makes you wonder what else have historians gotten wrong in the past.
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Based on just bones, an elaborate grave, and her expansive knowledge of history, Nancy Marie Brown leads her readers through the probable life of of a powerful and successful female Viking Warrior. Alternating between imagined scenes from the life of this warrior, whom Brown names Hervor, and well-researched history, Brown discusses the 10th century Viking world and the way that this warrior would have existed within it. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this book is that Brown uses Hervor's story to expose the real role what women played in Viking society, particularly that of the female warrior. Brown carefully teases apart the fact from Victorian age adaptations and modern assumptions to reveal the very real story of one Viking woman and how she represents an entire group of warriors.

I really enjoyed this book. I went into it expecting a historical fiction and was surprised to find that this was more concrete history than fiction. However, it was a pleasantly surprised, and I found that Brown expertly weaves the history into chapters of Hervor's life, and does so in a way that is highly engaging. Readers who enjoy history will love this book, and I believe people on the fence about straight history will also be able to enjoy it. 

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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