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Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney

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Written around AD 1200 by an unnamed Icelandic author, the Orkneyinga Saga is an intriguing fusion of myth, legend and history. The only medieval chronicle to have Orkney as the central place of action, it tells of an era when the islands were still part of the Viking world, beginning with their conquest by the kings of Norway in the ninth century. The saga describes the s Written around AD 1200 by an unnamed Icelandic author, the Orkneyinga Saga is an intriguing fusion of myth, legend and history. The only medieval chronicle to have Orkney as the central place of action, it tells of an era when the islands were still part of the Viking world, beginning with their conquest by the kings of Norway in the ninth century. The saga describes the subsequent history of the Earldom of Orkney and the adventures of great Norsemen such as Sigurd the Powerful, St Magnus the Martyr and Hrolf, the conqueror of Normandy. Savagely powerful and poetic, this is a fascinating depiction of an age of brutal battles, murder, sorcery and bitter family feuds.


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Written around AD 1200 by an unnamed Icelandic author, the Orkneyinga Saga is an intriguing fusion of myth, legend and history. The only medieval chronicle to have Orkney as the central place of action, it tells of an era when the islands were still part of the Viking world, beginning with their conquest by the kings of Norway in the ninth century. The saga describes the s Written around AD 1200 by an unnamed Icelandic author, the Orkneyinga Saga is an intriguing fusion of myth, legend and history. The only medieval chronicle to have Orkney as the central place of action, it tells of an era when the islands were still part of the Viking world, beginning with their conquest by the kings of Norway in the ninth century. The saga describes the subsequent history of the Earldom of Orkney and the adventures of great Norsemen such as Sigurd the Powerful, St Magnus the Martyr and Hrolf, the conqueror of Normandy. Savagely powerful and poetic, this is a fascinating depiction of an age of brutal battles, murder, sorcery and bitter family feuds.

30 review for Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    At the back of this edition there is a map. And you can see that if you start from Bergen and take a big step to the west you stand on Shetland (view spoiler)[ is you are wearing your 100 league wading boots with extra thick platform heels (hide spoiler)] , a further half step to the south-west and you are on the Orkneys, from there you can step directly on to northernmost Scotland - Caithness, off to the west are the Hebrides and from there you can skip down the coast as far as Wales or over to At the back of this edition there is a map. And you can see that if you start from Bergen and take a big step to the west you stand on Shetland (view spoiler)[ is you are wearing your 100 league wading boots with extra thick platform heels (hide spoiler)] , a further half step to the south-west and you are on the Orkneys, from there you can step directly on to northernmost Scotland - Caithness, off to the west are the Hebrides and from there you can skip down the coast as far as Wales or over to Ireland and that broadly speaking is the world of this book, it shows the Orkneys in a web of contacts, densely interwoven with the Shetlands, Caithness and Norway, some connections with the Hebrides and intermittently Viking Dublin, over time there are more and more connections with the rest of Scotland (but the most respected crowned head is the one in Bergen), there are limited connections with Denmark and Sweden, as Christianity takes hold Jerusalem comes on to the mental horizon of the participants of these stories, but when a party goes to the Holy Land in addition to swimming in the river Jordan we see Viking-Pilgrim-Tourists getting drunk and pushed over or even murdered in a manner reminiscent of contemporary cases. The basis of their way of life was not much like that of typical twenty somethings today, raiding was a crucial supplement to the farming and fishing, given the frequent fighting I imagine that slave raiding was particularly important to maintain a labour force to do the ploughing, manuring, milking, sheering and fish gutting. Curiously the saga is said to have been composed in Iceland, yet Iceland is noticeable by it's absence, nobody in the sage sails north for cod, whale, narwhal tusk, or gyrfalcons. In common with Icelandic stories there is an intense emphasis on names and family connections so I expected some relationship to a patron or the composer of this work, but none was made explicit. A common technique of the author is to dump all the names and interrelationships of an entire generation of Orcadian power players into the text and then slowly fold them into the saga with a long spoon over the following dozen pages. Mostly the saga is the sorry tale of the Earls of Orkney. They hold their title from the King of Bergen, their obligations to him seem to be none and for the most part the Kings of Norway are not terribly fussed about who is knitting what in Fair isle or whether a cathedral is built in Kirkwall or not. For the first half of the saga we mostly have an unfolding intergenerational conflict, Earls of Orkney will have children and will insist on dividing their territory between them, occasionally there is fraternal peace, but mostly there is fraternal violence, or uncles versus nephews, with three earls battling for mastery over Scapa Flow etc. This stage of the book moves quickly: fight, botched house burnings(view spoiler)[ like a nightmare version of Njall's saga you set the house on fire and the intended victims escape unseen through the smoke (hide spoiler)] , skirmish, flee to Norway, beg the King for a couple of ships and men, rapidly repeated. About the middle of the book there is the makings of a life of saint Magnus who gets caught up in conflict (surprise, surprise) with his second cousins. We know he is a saint because (a) he never consummates his marriage and (b) he prays as an athlete trains with pre-prayers in place of warm-ups. We also know that he is a saint because he is caught out by a cousin and martyred by the cousin's cook (no one else can be persuaded to murder so holy a man) and thereafter there are miracles associated with his grave despite the disapproval of his cousins and the Bishop. The remainder of the book is taken up by the life of Saint Magnus' nephew, Earl Rognvald Kali, shortly after which the saga ends abruptly. For the most part it is a watery saga of men who drink too much and quarrel even more, particularly with their relatives. The arrival of Christianity seems to make no difference, though afterwards we are occasionally told of odd men who still worship spirits and tell fortunes or say soothes. Doorways we learn are narrow - so take your shield off your back first or else you will get stuck going into a church. There are tricks and traps and lots of poetry.

  2. 4 out of 5

    E. G.

    Introduction --Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney Genealogy of the Earls of Orkney Glossary of Personal Names Glossary of Place Names Maps

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Well, what to say about this? It's difficult to review. I'd have to start by saying I enjoyed it much less than other Icelandic Sagas that I've read. There again, I recognise its importance as a quasi-historical document and to the Orcadians' sense of their identity, and their Norse inheritance in particular. Certainly, in Hermaan Palsson and Paul Edwards' translation (the former is surely not the son of the latter?), it read well enough. From a modern reader's perspective, though, there was plen Well, what to say about this? It's difficult to review. I'd have to start by saying I enjoyed it much less than other Icelandic Sagas that I've read. There again, I recognise its importance as a quasi-historical document and to the Orcadians' sense of their identity, and their Norse inheritance in particular. Certainly, in Hermaan Palsson and Paul Edwards' translation (the former is surely not the son of the latter?), it read well enough. From a modern reader's perspective, though, there was plenty to object to. Firstly, it was incredibly repetitive. In essence, two Norse earls would somehow end up ruling half of Orkney each, having visited either the King of the Scots or the King of Norway first. Before long, they would fight each other over the remaining half, the result depending on who was first to put an axe through the other's skull. Repeat ten times over... Sometimes, Caithness would be thrown in for good measure as something else to fall out about. Did nothing else happen in the Orkneys during the centuries of Norse occupation? Secondly, I know it's judging the past by modern standards, but it's hard to accept the characters presented here as tragic/heroic/saintly as the anonymous hagiographer would have us believe. They spend their time terrorising innocent yeomen and peasants and killing each other in the most brutal fashion, living off the proceeds of looting and their tenants' hard work. It's equivalent to being asked to think of terrorists or armed bank robbers as admirable. There again, I suppose some of our contemporaries try to persuade us of just this. Thirdly, it was pretty incoherent in terms of its chronology and genealogy. Scores of names were bandied around, characters coming and going to meet their maker then re-appearing again. This made it hard to follow at times and difficult to remember who was who between one reading session and another. And fourthly, as much as I love Norse history, the more I read, the less sympathetic I find myself towards its main characters. The society the Sagas describe is elitist and hierarchical, one where heritage is everything and those without it count for nothing. The narratives deal in Manichean simplicities, the actors either presented either as out-and-out treacherous villains or men of holy virtue (though not averse to the odd skull splitting). I'm going to read George Mackay Brown's 'Magnus' next, a novel drawing directly on these accounts. Hopefully, it'll prove more entertaining.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Bought this during a holiday as a student at the St Magnus Festival, where I fell for the place (and the cheeky, chunky owner of the music shop in Kirkwall), but been putting it off for twenty years because I feared, deep down, it'd be really boring. It truly was. Despite my adoration for Orkney and lust for Vikings, I'm no historian. I suspect I should've tried to find a picture book version... Two stars, though, because its deadpan gore threw up some unintentionally hilarious passages, such as Bought this during a holiday as a student at the St Magnus Festival, where I fell for the place (and the cheeky, chunky owner of the music shop in Kirkwall), but been putting it off for twenty years because I feared, deep down, it'd be really boring. It truly was. Despite my adoration for Orkney and lust for Vikings, I'm no historian. I suspect I should've tried to find a picture book version... Two stars, though, because its deadpan gore threw up some unintentionally hilarious passages, such as: The night was pitch dark, and it was hard frost. During the night he came to another farm. His feet were very much frostbitten, and some of his toes fell off. P.S. I recently took another trip to Orkney, and was just as enchanted by it. I was gutted, however, to find that the music shop is no more, let alone run by its previous owner...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    Extraordinary insight into Viking Life. Written in the 1200s by an Icelandic poet (skald). I am related to most of the Viking Earls of Orkney so reading this was an amazing experience.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    3.5 "Orkneyinga Saga" is an interesting read, however, it is not one of my favorite Norse sagas. In general I would probably not suggest "Orkneyinga Saga" to someone who has never read a Norse saga before. Like with other sagas, the first half of the book sets up the events of the second half. That it takes so long to get to the primary characters may be frustrating to many modern readers. There are also a lot of characters with the same or similar names which can be confusing, especially since ch 3.5 "Orkneyinga Saga" is an interesting read, however, it is not one of my favorite Norse sagas. In general I would probably not suggest "Orkneyinga Saga" to someone who has never read a Norse saga before. Like with other sagas, the first half of the book sets up the events of the second half. That it takes so long to get to the primary characters may be frustrating to many modern readers. There are also a lot of characters with the same or similar names which can be confusing, especially since characters tend to only last a few pages before they are killed off. My edition of this book had a family tree, and it was much needed. "Orkneyinga" is a little different from other sagas; most of it takes part in Orkney and other parts of modern day Scotland, it takes place later than most of the other sagas, when Christianity has started to be established, and it is very focused on warring, rather than mixing fighting with domestic issues. Unlike in most of the other sagas, women hardly have a role except to be mentioned as the wife, mother, or sister of someone. This gives "Orkneying" a unique perspective, showing the transition in their culture, and giving readers an idea of the harsh life the Norse men lived -- there is lots of betraying, house burning, and, of course, killing. Unfortunately for me, what "Orkneying" lacks is what generally interests me most in Norse sagas. While the battling is interesting it can get repetitive. Wile it is interesting to see a culture in transition, the elements of the original Norse religion are really interesting to me, and I missed it. There are a few hints of it, such as in a scene where a women and her sister make a beautiful shirt for one of her two sons. Against protest the other son puts the shirt on and dies. That is the scene in which both the old religion and women are most prominent in the book, and it was probably my favorite. Other hints of the old religion can be found in small elements, such as the man who is missing and eye and has a connection with crows. Sadly these are very small hints, however. There are also small peeks at the men's domestic lives, such as how they would schedule their raids to fit between the planting and harvesting of their farms. Here again, the reader only gets to see small bits and pieces of this element of the Norse life. Overall, fans of Norse sagas will probably find interest in "Orkneyinga Saga." However, it is different from other sagas, and it wasn't my favorite.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John Adams

    Orkneyinga Saga Orkneyinga Saga is the only medieval chronicle that takes place predominantly in the Orkney Islands of Scotland, although some of the action takes place in the nearby Caithness mainland. Its authorship is unclear although scholars believe that the writer lived and worked at Oddi in southern Iceland. There was an intellectual centre there that had links to Orkney. I bought a copy when our family was planning a holiday to the islands because I wanted to get an idea of the history of Orkneyinga Saga Orkneyinga Saga is the only medieval chronicle that takes place predominantly in the Orkney Islands of Scotland, although some of the action takes place in the nearby Caithness mainland. Its authorship is unclear although scholars believe that the writer lived and worked at Oddi in southern Iceland. There was an intellectual centre there that had links to Orkney. I bought a copy when our family was planning a holiday to the islands because I wanted to get an idea of the history of the place and of the people who had lived there in centuries past. I wasn't disappointed. A handy family tree at the back helps to make sense of who's who. The book consists of numerous tales ranging from a couple of paragraphs to several pages in length. Each is interlinked so it really feels like you are reading one unified story. The saga was only written down after centuries of being told orally around the fireside during the long winter months, with the storytellers receiving plenty of no-holds-barred feedback from their audiences. As a result, each tale is very polished and had certainly been road tested before it made the cut and medieval monks thought it worth copying each one out, time and again, by hand. It's good to know that quality control and focus group testing aren't modern inventions. War was never far away. Titles include 'A poisoned tooth', 'Troublemakers from Norway' and 'Murder of an earl'. In other respects, men haven't changed at all. We follow Kali when he goes 'Drinking in Bergen' and Thorfinn as he takes 'Revenge on the English'. The Vikings were never happier than when they were searching out new lands to explore. Rognvald Brusason visits Russia and we later travel south with his cousin Earl Rognvald to Galicia, Gibraltar and Byzantium. The early Viking pilgrims travelled to the Holy Land but some of their trips were simply for pleasure: Earl Rognvald spends a very pleasant afternoon in France with Ermingerd, Queen of Narbonne, sitting on his knee. Men like Einar Hard-Mouth and Arni Pin-Leg led lives that were full of danger and often cut brutally short. It is perhaps appropriate that the writer tells their stories economically. The saga made these figures come alive for me and visiting the islands achieved the same result a few months later. Both the saga, and a trip to Orkney, are highly recommended. Enjoy!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sophie (RedheadReading)

    Not my favourite saga as it gets a little repetitive and lacks a real driving plot, but definitely an interesting read from a historical perspective!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    Loved this book, a fascinating insight to the Earls of Orkney.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lilly Hurd

    I found it a bit hard to keep up with all the names, but I did still enjoy the simple, matter of fact writing style.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Vikings are the best. Reading about Vikings is even better. You have it all: adventure, the high seas, plunder, pilgrimages, romance (Ermergarde of Narbonne is apparently quite the pretty lady), you have feuds and battles and poetry: "Once the wine-serving/wench understood me/the touches of my tongue/I was content/I loved that good lady/but lime-bound stones/crumble: now I cram/the hawk with carrion." Picturesque, don't you think? The 'Orkneyinga' is prime storytelling. I love the simplicity of it Vikings are the best. Reading about Vikings is even better. You have it all: adventure, the high seas, plunder, pilgrimages, romance (Ermergarde of Narbonne is apparently quite the pretty lady), you have feuds and battles and poetry: "Once the wine-serving/wench understood me/the touches of my tongue/I was content/I loved that good lady/but lime-bound stones/crumble: now I cram/the hawk with carrion." Picturesque, don't you think? The 'Orkneyinga' is prime storytelling. I love the simplicity of it, the strait to the facts, the foreboding and the idea that nothing is out of your reach as long as your ship is strong, winds are at your back, and you have the bigger axe. There is humor: "Amundi so arranged things that Earl Harald and Svein had to use the same bed." I really liked that my main man, Macbeth aka Thorfinn Sirgurdsson is a major player in this book and showcases to be one of the most powerful Earls of Orkney. He is my all time fave and I loved reading his stories. "Earl Thorfinn ruled all his lands till he died, and it's said on good authority that he was the most powerful of all the Earls of Orkney." It is like most Viking sagas go, where no man lives long and fights from the moment of his birth to the end of his life. They tell of his sons, sometimes of their daughters. There is magic and miracles and it is so easy to read these stories and imagine them spoken out loud by bards by firelight with a mug of mead in hand. There is a luster of adventure and blood lust in every story and it was difficult to put these characters away. There is brutality yes, but there is friendship and high seas, and these stay with you.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Duntay

    I can't really rate this on it's readability - I'll be the first to admit there is no real plot and I have difficulty keeping all of the names straight. But I started reading this in Orkney and it is given extra cache to know that Viking ships hid in the bay we could see from our window waiting to attack passing boats on the way to Caithness.. There are also some classic literary scenes - the post-mortem revenge of the Earl of the Scots on the cheating Earl Sigurd..poisoned cloaks and fatal banne I can't really rate this on it's readability - I'll be the first to admit there is no real plot and I have difficulty keeping all of the names straight. But I started reading this in Orkney and it is given extra cache to know that Viking ships hid in the bay we could see from our window waiting to attack passing boats on the way to Caithness.. There are also some classic literary scenes - the post-mortem revenge of the Earl of the Scots on the cheating Earl Sigurd..poisoned cloaks and fatal banners, and a 'blood eagle'. We travel not only around the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland, but to Ireland, France, Russia and Constantinople.

  13. 4 out of 5

    M.J.

    Now, you have to be in the right frame of mind to read this. It is a terse narrative, rich in detail and names. It meanders along at it's own little pace and is a fascinating insight into a culture which thrived so long ago. The people in it feel real, a little twisted at times, but this is, after all, a story of people who lived possibly hundreds of years before the author was alive. Read this if you love all things Viking and Norse or if you're interested in the history of early Scotland. Now, you have to be in the right frame of mind to read this. It is a terse narrative, rich in detail and names. It meanders along at it's own little pace and is a fascinating insight into a culture which thrived so long ago. The people in it feel real, a little twisted at times, but this is, after all, a story of people who lived possibly hundreds of years before the author was alive. Read this if you love all things Viking and Norse or if you're interested in the history of early Scotland.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nicki Markus

    Orkneyinga Saga is not the most gripping of the sagas I have read so far, but it was still enjoyable. I found my interest flagging a little around the two-thirds mark, but then it picked up again for the end. It contains all the normal themes and events you'd expect in a saga of this genre and will therefore be familiar and easy read for those used to such works. However, I would not recommend it as a first read for those new to these books as it doesn't have the 'pop' and excitement of some of Orkneyinga Saga is not the most gripping of the sagas I have read so far, but it was still enjoyable. I found my interest flagging a little around the two-thirds mark, but then it picked up again for the end. It contains all the normal themes and events you'd expect in a saga of this genre and will therefore be familiar and easy read for those used to such works. However, I would not recommend it as a first read for those new to these books as it doesn't have the 'pop' and excitement of some of the others.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Whyte

    The people in this book are literally my ancestors, from Norway and Shetland and they seem to have been very stupid, although good at making tools, boats, and weapons, and drinking. Numerous references to "they spent the day sitting in a great hall drinking", followed by "he mistook his brother Jon for Svein Stone Brains, and split his head down the middle with an ax, after which Jon fell down on the ground." My ancestors were drunk idiots. A fun read though, and lots of references to the Auld R The people in this book are literally my ancestors, from Norway and Shetland and they seem to have been very stupid, although good at making tools, boats, and weapons, and drinking. Numerous references to "they spent the day sitting in a great hall drinking", followed by "he mistook his brother Jon for Svein Stone Brains, and split his head down the middle with an ax, after which Jon fell down on the ground." My ancestors were drunk idiots. A fun read though, and lots of references to the Auld Rock, so kinda cute.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Yuna

    Aaaaaaaawesome.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kate Sherrod

    Decent saga but this ebook edition is a nightmare to read because it's obviously just a lazy scan with zero effort put into format or OCR correction. Ow my brain! Decent saga but this ebook edition is a nightmare to read because it's obviously just a lazy scan with zero effort put into format or OCR correction. Ow my brain!

  18. 5 out of 5

    K.V. Wilson

    I bought this book because of my family history (Gunn clan originating on the Orkney isles). Having heard about some of this stuff through the media and through Norse mythology, I was expecting the Norse to be tamer in historical records. Well, they weren't. Some of these people were really nasty! Brother-brother conflicts occurred on a regular basis as they fought over who should control the Orkney islands. They killed each other, decieved each other, and stole from each other. And they did it I bought this book because of my family history (Gunn clan originating on the Orkney isles). Having heard about some of this stuff through the media and through Norse mythology, I was expecting the Norse to be tamer in historical records. Well, they weren't. Some of these people were really nasty! Brother-brother conflicts occurred on a regular basis as they fought over who should control the Orkney islands. They killed each other, decieved each other, and stole from each other. And they did it all while writing poetry, apparently. Often, a ship going pillaging would bring a guy dedicated to documenting it in verse. Men would compete during feasts to see who could come up with the best verse. There were a few "good" people--they all seemed to be into raiding, but some were, apart from that, people who distributed wealth fairly and were well-loved. If anyone tried to harm them or steal from them, commoners (and sometimes even kings of Scotland they'd befriended) would gladly come to their aid. Interesting read. A historical record, so a big boring sometimes, but cool nonetheless to read about real immigrants and their descendents.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sonya

    A very enjoyable read although a bit repetitious. Vikings drink, go on raids, kill each over power/land, repeat. It is also amazing that all the names, stories, and poems (yes, the Vikings have a softer side) have come down to us at all after about 1000 years. It must have taken a lot of memorization to get all the family members, places, events, etc. straight. Some of the names are a bit more memorable than others. I just loved reading about Thorfinn Skull-Splitter, Eirek Blood-Axe, and Thorbjo A very enjoyable read although a bit repetitious. Vikings drink, go on raids, kill each over power/land, repeat. It is also amazing that all the names, stories, and poems (yes, the Vikings have a softer side) have come down to us at all after about 1000 years. It must have taken a lot of memorization to get all the family members, places, events, etc. straight. Some of the names are a bit more memorable than others. I just loved reading about Thorfinn Skull-Splitter, Eirek Blood-Axe, and Thorbjorn the Black. However, there were men who were less-intimidating sounding but probably were pretty tough anyway: Thorarin Bag-Nose, Einar Belly-Shaker, and Einar Buttered-Bread. I also enjoyed reading about how Orkney was becoming Christian but the bishops went on raids with them. How did the bishops justify that what they were doing would have been accepted by the Church? This was a good story about viking women as well (although their roles in the story were not very prominent). Recommend to anyone interested in Viking history.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dimi Balerinas

    A really awesome translation of Orkneyinga saga, this book offers the reader the chance to have a very useful and historically accurate insight regarding the history of Orkney between 9th and 12th century and it's relationships and influences with the rest of Northern Europe (And even down to Byzantine Empire). The book is very well written, it's exact and accurate to the context, the translation is one of the best that exists out there. It's one of my favorite historical books and my main source A really awesome translation of Orkneyinga saga, this book offers the reader the chance to have a very useful and historically accurate insight regarding the history of Orkney between 9th and 12th century and it's relationships and influences with the rest of Northern Europe (And even down to Byzantine Empire). The book is very well written, it's exact and accurate to the context, the translation is one of the best that exists out there. It's one of my favorite historical books and my main source of information about the History of the Earls of Orkney (as is the title the book is also known as). If you love reading history records and study them, or if you are curious about expanding your knowledge about Norse history and the Sagas, then this book should be in your library!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Solveig Singleton

    Well worth reading for those who appreciate the contemporaneous historian. A lot of viking about in boats. A lot of sneaking overland to catch people unawares and set fire to their houses; letting women and children outside to escape immolation was the civilized option. A bit of legal reform. A good bit of farming. Trickery, deception, ambition, early Christianity and pagan traditions elucidated. Occasional details add warmth, such as author's noting certain offspring were "lovingly raised." Can Well worth reading for those who appreciate the contemporaneous historian. A lot of viking about in boats. A lot of sneaking overland to catch people unawares and set fire to their houses; letting women and children outside to escape immolation was the civilized option. A bit of legal reform. A good bit of farming. Trickery, deception, ambition, early Christianity and pagan traditions elucidated. Occasional details add warmth, such as author's noting certain offspring were "lovingly raised." Can be hard to follow because everyone is named Harald, Sveign, or variations on Thor or Ingi. Footnotes would have been helpful here and elsewhere. Also, phonetic information about the poetry that would give some indication of the original meter and rhyme scheme. I will have to look it up.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

    Finally. It seemed like this book went on and on. I was pretty determined to read it and persevered, but it definitely read like a historical account rather than myth or legend, like I was hoping for. Someone recommended Magnus to read with it, and that book ended up being what I had hoped this would be, so not all is lost. That being said, it was interesting to consider this account in light of our trip to Orkney years ago. Finally. It seemed like this book went on and on. I was pretty determined to read it and persevered, but it definitely read like a historical account rather than myth or legend, like I was hoping for. Someone recommended Magnus to read with it, and that book ended up being what I had hoped this would be, so not all is lost. That being said, it was interesting to consider this account in light of our trip to Orkney years ago.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laure

    Well it definitely was interesting (and helped greatly over my History course) though very different from the sagas I usually read. It was also quite long, which tells you something about the extent of the informative dimension of this work. There are definitely possibilities for one or several screen-adaptions and quite frankly, it would be as endearing as Game Of Thrones provided it is done well. Truly an interesting read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is an incredible record of the Earls of Orkney from the 9th to 13th centuries, written around 1200 AD. It is a historical record, not a drama (although there’s definitely at little myth, at least at the start) I find it astonishing so many of the places detailed still exist today & it’s fascinating to see the relationship between Orkney & Norway that is still evident in Orcadian culture. It’s definitely of it’s time, & there definitely isn’t enough focus on the women of Orkney.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Strathclyde

    The Orkneyinga Saga is the first Norse Saga that I've sat down and read cover to cover, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A mix of history, myth, genealogy, poetry, and politics- it reads a lot like a storybook. It's full of interesting characters, adventure, humourous side plots, aphorisms, intrigue, folklore, and littered with short verses composed by various characters. I would easily recommend this to anybody. The Orkneyinga Saga is the first Norse Saga that I've sat down and read cover to cover, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A mix of history, myth, genealogy, poetry, and politics- it reads a lot like a storybook. It's full of interesting characters, adventure, humourous side plots, aphorisms, intrigue, folklore, and littered with short verses composed by various characters. I would easily recommend this to anybody.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rose Wardlaw

    A non-historian/ pleb review: Look. I didn't read every word. There a boring bits and great bits. Who doesn't want to hear an account of Earl Einar Buttered-Bread conquering the Hebrides... Right? Links a lot to Norsemen on Netflix and reads easier when you have their voice in your head whilst also firing an interest in Norse/Scots early history which I didn't know I had. A non-historian/ pleb review: Look. I didn't read every word. There a boring bits and great bits. Who doesn't want to hear an account of Earl Einar Buttered-Bread conquering the Hebrides... Right? Links a lot to Norsemen on Netflix and reads easier when you have their voice in your head whilst also firing an interest in Norse/Scots early history which I didn't know I had.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katharine Wibell

    Like other sagas about the Viking era, the Orkneyinga Saga is full of battles and betrayal, adventure and violent acts. Unlike the others, this one focuses on the Scottish and Nordic ancestors that competed over rights of the Orkney islands. This was a reasonably easy read for those who follow the other sagas of the periods.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I hoped to. The places discussed were interesting, but I cannot tell if that is because of the book itself or the fact that I had recently visited Orkney and Caithness. Surely the most interesting parts of this were the story of St. Magnus and the tales of his nephew. While parts of it were a bit of a chore to get through, I'm glad that I did. I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I hoped to. The places discussed were interesting, but I cannot tell if that is because of the book itself or the fact that I had recently visited Orkney and Caithness. Surely the most interesting parts of this were the story of St. Magnus and the tales of his nephew. While parts of it were a bit of a chore to get through, I'm glad that I did.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adam Stemple

    Fantastic stuff. History of the Earls of Orkney, whose interests include going viking (of course), betraying family members, opportune murderings, running away and asking forgiveness after opportune murderings, sneak attacks, ship battles, sacking cities for your secret crush, and a surprising amount of poetry.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carol Palmer

    I’m a fan of the Viking Age so I enjoyed the book. It had interesting characters like Svein Asleifarson. My favorite name was Einar Buttered Bread. There were many characters with the same name which was difficult to keep them straight. It was like keeping track of all the Marys during Tudor times.

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