Reading list: Blood Rage

Blood Rage was a 2015 smash hit, and it continues to be very popular, largely due to its immersive Ragnarok theme and great interactive mechanics (it’s also one of my favorite games).

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If you love the Norse mythology and Viking combat of Eric Lang’s game, you’ll enjoy this selection of  Viking-related books. Some are non-fiction and will help you learn more about Norse culture, while others will take you on Viking adventures through the eyes of fictional characters (and some blend the two).

Check them out and share your favorites in the comments below!

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

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You may be familiar with the first book in Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles series from the BBC series of the same name. Kingdom relates the early days of Britain and the significant Scandinavian influence in its creation, a fascinating story you probably aren’t familiar with if you haven’t studied British history.

The story is told from the perspective of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon captured and adopted by invading Danes (interestingly, Uhtred is loosely based on one of Cornwell’s own ancestors). In this mainstay of the genre, you’ll get a combination of good storytelling and actual Viking history—and at the time of this writing, there are nine novels in the series, so if you like Cornwell’s Viking tale, you’ll have plenty more to read.

Vikings: Life and Legend by Gareth Williams

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While I was living in the UK, the British Museum was one of my favorite places to visit, and one of the best exhibits I saw there was Vikings: Life and Legend. It gave visitors a fantastic view into the day-to-day life of the Vikings, from religious influences to their weapons of war. It was an unrivaled intimate look into Norse culture.

And while you can’t make up for missing the exhibit, you can get the official companion book, filled with gorgeous photos and a narrative that details the lasting effects that Viking culture has had on the entire world. If you want to to learn more about real-life Viking culture, this is absolutely one of the best ways to do it.

Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura

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Yukimura’s highly regarded manga is an absolute must-read for fans of Viking books and comics; the tale of Thorfinn’s childhood capture, his growth into a fearsome warrior, and his quest to avenge his father’s death is gripping, violent, deeply psychological, and fabulously illustrated.

While most of what you’ll find in this book is fictional, there are some mentions of real people of the era, as well as the general trajectory of Danish, English, and Frank battles. Regardless of whether you’re looking for historical information or just more awesome Viking battles, this is not to be missed. It’s one of the best there is, with one reviewer going so far as to call it “perfection.”

God of Vengeance by Giles Kristian

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The Amazon description for this book calls it a “must-read for all who enjoy thrilling, action-packed fiction – from Bernard Cornwell to George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones.” It should also say “a great read for fans of Blood Rage.” This is the story of Sigurd, a boy orphaned by the killing of his family, and his quest for revenge on the king who seized his village and slayed his family. Collecting a band of fierce warriors, Sigurd sets out to settle his blood feud before men and gods.

Like The Last Kingdom, this is the first in a series, so if you like it, there’s plenty more fast-paced Viking action to be had. The third book in the series will be coming out early in 2017, but I’d you want more from Kristian before then, there’s the Raven trilogy to check out, too.

Chronicles of the Vikings: Records, Memorials, and Myths by R.I. Page

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This is likely a more academic look into Viking culture than many readers will be looking for, but it offers something that few other works can: a look at Viking culture from inside the culture itself. Most of our records from this time are based on those left by other cultures, but Page looks specifically at the few records left by the Vikings themselves.

The result is a portrait of this very important culture in its own words, something that’s not presented in many other places. Amazon’s description cites “runic inscriptions left behind, poems of their official skalds, literary works that entertained them, the few prose historical accounts that derive direct from Vikings, and eyewitness reports of how the northern peoples lived,” making Chronicles of the Vikings a great way to get a deeper understanding of Viking culture without looking through a lens colored by other cultures’ opinions of it.

Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by Dame Antonia Byatt

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This creative retelling of the Norse Apocalypse begins with a girl in World-War-II-era Britain. By skillfully interweaving the modern world and Norse mythology, Byatt shows us some hard truths about the world we live in, the fragility of humanity, and the dangerous situation we’ve put ourselves in. A Booker prize winner, Byatt has a great reputation for telling insightful stories.

Books reflect the age they’re written in, regardless of the subject matter, and this look at Ragnarok is no different. The Norse apocalypse story may feel like an ancient myth, but like all great stories, it has much to teach us about  ourselves.

Northlanders by Brian Wood

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Wood’s series is often described as surprisingly deep, and its looks at culture and war are sure to get you thinking not only about the Vikings, but about our own time as well. After Sven returns to his homeland from Constantinople, he is faced with the culture that he left behind and a number of important decisions to be made.

Reviews of the first collection are mixed, with some calling it an insightful look into some deep issues and others panning it as a simple high-action pulp; the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and you’ll have to come to your own conclusions. Regardless of how you feel about Northlanders, there’s no denying that it channels a number of the themes in Blood Rage.

Norse Mythology: A Concise Guide to Gods, Heroes, Sagas, and Beliefs of Norse Mythology by Robert Carlson

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This self-published book has gotten good reviews for being concise, easy-to-read, and full of good information on the basics of Norse mythology, including the nine worlds, gods and goddesses, Ragnarok, and more relevant topics for those interested in Norse beliefs.

At the time of this writing, the Kindle version is free, so grab it while you can!

Bonus: Twilight of the Thunder God by Amon Amarth

This isn’t a book, but it’s so perfect for Blood Rage that I have to include it anyway. Amon Amarth is a great Viking metal band, with songs full of questing, pillaging, Norse gods, and Ragnarok references. Put it on while you play. You will not regret it.

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Your Favorite Viking Books

These eight books—and one bonus album—will keep you reading for a long time, especially if you decide to explore some of the long-running series that are mentioned here. But there are certainly more out there, both fiction and non-, text-based or graphic.

What are your favorite Viking-related books and comics? Share them in the comments below so we can check them out!

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