The Wolf Age

The Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons and the Battle for the North Sea Empire

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Pub Date 08 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 11 Oct 2022

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“Skeie’s account of ruthless conflict, political intrigue, and diplomatic machinations reads like a real-life Game of Thrones—without the dragons. Medieval history buffs will be riveted.”  --Publishers Weekly

Thrilling history provides a new perspective on the Viking-Anglo Saxon conflicts and brings the bloody period vividly to life, perfect for fans of Dan Jones

The first major book on Vikings by a Scandinavian author to be published in English, The Wolf Age reframes the struggle for a North Sea empire and puts readers in the mindset of Vikings, providing new insight into their goals, values, and what they chose to live and die for.

Tore Skeie ("Norway's Most Important Young Historian") takes readers on a thrilling journey through the bloody shared history of England and Scandinavia, and on across early medieval Europe, from the wild Norwegian fjords to the wealthy cities of Muslim Andalusia.

Warfare, plotting, backstabbing and bribery abound as Skeie skillfully weaves sagas and skaldic poetry with breathless dramatization as he entertainingly brings the world of the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons to vivid life.

In the eleventh century, the rulers of the lands surrounding the North Sea are all hungry for power. To get power they need soldiers, to get soldiers they need silver, and to get silver there is no better way than war and plunder.

This vicious cycle draws all the lands of the north into a brutal struggle for supremacy and survival that will shatter kingdoms and forge an empire…
“Skeie’s account of ruthless conflict, political intrigue, and diplomatic machinations reads like a real-life Game of Thrones—without the dragons. Medieval history buffs will be riveted.”  ...

Advance Praise

“The turbulent [Second Viking Age] that straddles the first millennium is brought to life in a history worthy of a modern television epic.”
--Financial Times

“Skeie’s account of ruthless conflict, political intrigue, and diplomatic machinations reads like a real-life Game of Thrones—without the dragons. Medieval history buffs will be riveted”
--Publishers Weekly

“The turbulent [Second Viking Age] that straddles the first millennium is brought to life in a history worthy of a modern television epic.”
--Financial Times

“Skeie’s account of ruthless conflict...

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ISBN 9781782278351
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Featured Reviews

I will never pass up an opportunity to read a book about the Norse/Vikings and I'm so glad I didn't because this was a fantastically engrossing history book.

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to read about the history from a Scandinavian author and I feel like it definitely lent something different and unique to the book. If possible I always prefer to read about the history of a place/people from someone of that culture, up until now I hadn't been able to.

While it is a non fictional history book I didn't ever find it dry or boring, especially with the newer spin of reading it from a Scandinavian point of view. The book does have a great deal of information on the Viking-Anglo Saxon conflicts, but it is not purely military history (though I wouldn't have minded if it was!), you'll also find information here on the people themselves, what drove them and gleam some new information on their motivations. This book definitely reads like a fiction novel and I found myself not wanting to put it down until I had finished. I especially enjoyed the way Tore Skeie incorporated the sagas and poetry into the history, it didn't seem out of place at all and flowed perfectly with the book.

5 Stars, 10 out of 10, I loved every moment reading this book, I look forward to purchasing a physical copy for myself and as gifts. I hope we get to enjoy more of Tore Skeie's works in the future.

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The Wolf Age was an excellent non-fiction read that was both informative and entertaining. If, like me, you've read books about these peoples/this time period in the past, a good chunk of the information will already be familiar to you. However, this work really focused in on a lot of detail and was presented in a very readable way, making it accessible to anyone and not limited to scholarly circles. For those interested in reading on, there was a bibliography at the end. I am giving this book 4.5 stars.

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The Vikings have always been a part of history to spark the imagination, especially in recent times with the likes of The Last Kingdom and The Northman. The Wolf Age is written in brilliant detail by Tore Skiefe, one of Norway's premiere historians, charting the journey of the Vikings across the 11th Century and the battles across England and Scandanavia.

I found the book absolutely fascinating, and the history was told with a flair, making it a very accessible Non-Fiction historical account. After all, with as much blood, guts and political fighting, there's no need to embellish the details.

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Books about the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons seem to be quite numerous. Skeie's account does something a little different however. Instead of reading like a dry history book, there is a focus on the battles, the political intrigue, and the viewpoints of the Vikings. It is a faster paced read, with some reviews comparing this book to Dan Jones, an author known for making history very readable, especially to people who know nothing of the era that the book covers. I find this comparison appropriate for this book, and would recommend it to newcomers and those versed in this field alike.

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As an Archaeologist I appreciate a book written to be detailed, as well as interesting to the lay reader. This book combines narratives with historical fact in a skillful prose for anyone to enjoy. It can be hard to find a book on the Vikings that doesn't get bogged down in their conflicts, while missing their rich culture, but this book balances the two nicely.

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A wonderful and extremely readable account of a period of history which I had almost entirely neglected previously! It is well written, and fantastically translated, enabling even the most uninitiated reader to be quickly immersed and fascinated in a tumultuous and perilous period of history.

The back and forth power struggles of the 'Vikings', Anglo-saxons and various other figures across Scandinavia and Europe are brought to life in an informative but also enjoyable fashion. There are so many colourful figures populating this period of time, and it was very fascinating to get an overview of the ins and outs of various power struggles.

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The Wolf Age was a book translated from Norwegian. It covers the convergent history of England and Scandinavia in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. We get the usual suspects, like Aethelred the Unready, but also some players and rulers you have not heard of: Edgar the Peaceful, Edward the Martyr and Queen Emma. The Dukes of Normandy were, of course, themselves of Scandinavian heritage. On the other side of the coin, there was also Athelfgifu of Northampton, an Englishwoman who married Canute but was divorced so he could marry his more famous, Norman bride who had first been the wife of Ethelred.

Women like Emma and Athelgifu illustrate the complex and fluid nature of political and familial events around the North Sea in the early 11th century. It was a world that was changing, in which countries were evolving from the Old Norse past into what we would recognize as the later, Medieval Kingdoms in Norway and Sweden. There are also rulers like Olaf II of Norway, AKA St Olaf or Olave were fascinating. He is all but unknown in England, despite having spent his childhood there, and he was rival of Canute: Olaf’s life represents the fluid and transitional nature of the period.

He took part in Viking raids which his forbears 200 years earlier would have recognized but was also a Christian and ruled during a period of the Christianization of Norway. He may have helped King Ethelred fight off his own countrymen, but was also a typical early Medieval King, relying on might to assert his authority.
The author, to his credit, refrains from (and sometimes intentionally avoids) modern judgements, even if that means ignoring traditional historical narratives. Olaf has traditionally been credited with the Christianization of Norway, but more recent opinion tends to vilify him for using violent or forceful means. The author argues that Olaf was probably more forceful in political and personal actions, and spreading his religion was probably only a secondary concern: Christianization happened due to other “historical forces” which were really beyond the control of any ruler. There’s more than just politics here though: the book also explores society and religion and how these two were changed by the events and cultural forces of the age.

I honestly didn’t notice this book translated: usually I do. It’s a very enjoyable history book which enabled me to learn about historical events and figures I’m not really familiar with. I always enjoy learning, even as a historian.

I downloaded a PDF of this title via Netgalley. I was not required to review it and it did not influence my opinions which are entirely my own.

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A very good history of the interplay between Norse and Anglo-Saxon political society in the era of Sweyn Forkbeard, Aethelred the Unready, and most of all Cnut the Great. Perhaps a little niche -- to be interested in the book, you probably really have to care about that era of history, and especially the "dad history" side of things that's mainly battles and murders and political intrigue. It's less concerned with the broader social changes that would have gone on in English society due to Danish rule or how the common folk would have experienced the events described, although in fairness the Scandinavian influence in England long predated the time period covered and it would have been a much bigger book if Skeie attempted to cover all that.

If I had to pick a criticism, it's that the book ends rather abruptly after Cnut's death. There's a bit of a denouement talking about the fate of the various constituent parts of the North Sea Empire, but for instance its discussion of England is basically two sentences saying it was split between his two sons, who later both died and then Edward the Confessor took the throne of a united England again. After spending an exhaustive amount of time on Sweyn and Cnut, that felt <i>very</i> abbreviated, and I'm really jonesing to know how the dynamic played out between the two brothers and the transition back to the Anglo-Saxon dynasty. The death of Cnut is a fine stopping point for a book on the North Sea Empire per se, but it would have also been very natural to extend the narrative on through to Harald Hardrada and Stamford Bridge, as the final chapter in the intertwined history of England and the Norse peoples. Disappointed to not have that period also covered to the same excellent level of detail.

Another thing, which I hope is simply a shortcoming of reading an e-ARC -- there are no maps! Tore Skeie is Norwegian and the book was originally published in Norway, where his audience can be assumed to have a more natural familiarity with the geography discussed, but for an English translation it would be nice to have some maps for reference (as well as maps of contemporary England, for American or other overseas readers who don't have a great handle on where Mercia/East Anglia/Wessex/Northumbria/etc. were). I'll have to get my hands on a physical copy when it's published to see if I need to edit this part out.

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The Wolf Age by Tore Skeie is a fascinating and rich work of nonfiction. The book explores the eleventh century and the bloody power struggle for England. The reader is transported across England, Scandinavia and medieval Europe exploring how kingdoms are forged and destroyed in the fight for power and supremacy. The author explores history alongside the sagas and poetry of the time and beautifully interweaves the legend and legacy of the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. The book is compelling and enthralling bringing to life figures such as Harald Bluetooth, Olaf, Cnut and Sweyn Forkbeard as they raid, rebel and forge alliances. It is history made accessible, vivid and enjoyable. I highly recommend for fans of history with atmosphere and pace 4 Stars ⭐️.

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Really interesting information in this book. I have read quite a few books on vikings but learned more reading this one. Highly recommend to those who want to read an independent book

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A fascinating journey through a period of history that is not well-known to most British folks. Tore Skeie takes us back and forth across the North Sea with such figures as Sweyn Forkbeard , his son Cnut, and Olaf Haraldsson. It’s fascinating how the few snippets that are the public consciousness portray these people as pious men (Olaf the saint, that old story about Cnut and the sea), while the reality is that they were shrewdly political, frequently ruthless, and even relied on warfare as a form of economy.
The narrative is a little choppy at times, because we meet a new player and go back in time to examine their origins, but it all comes together in the end to build a coherent picture of these intriguing times. I recommend this to all history fans!

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This review was originally published on I was given an ebook freely by NetGalley and the book’s publisher in return for a voluntary and honest review.

The Wolf Age: The Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons and the Battle for the North Sea Empire

By Tore Skeie
Translated by Alison McCullough

Tore Skeie is a Scandinavian Medievalist. As far as I can tell this is his first major English translation book. The title tells you what you’re getting. This history book deals with the High Middle Ages. It has a balanced view from both sides.

I loved the mixture of poetry, ballads in the informative text. I read a lot of Medieval books in college and since and this was one of the funnest reads in a long time. Very captivating and addictive. I also have to praise Alison McCullough, her translation work was so good I would forget I was reading a translation.

If you are at all interested in this period of history or Vikings in general do yourself a favor and check this out.

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In a time when little actual history was written down, the exploits of the Norse have been handed down through skaldic poems and sagas. Skeie blends known facts with details from the poems and produces a wonderful tale of the battles across Scandinavia, Europe and England for power and wealth. The narrative is eminently readable and the betrayals and backstabbing are beyond belief but there is much about everyday life and politics in Anglo-Saxon lands as well as the Norse homelands. Managing to be both scholarly and populist, this is a great book.

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This is an amazing and informative book about several of the figures portrayed in Vikings: Valhalla. Emma of Normandy features large as she should!

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