IntransigentFruit

A blog about books and reading. How very original!

Are Some Books Better In Printed Form?

The Joy Of E-Readers

kindle voyage e-readerI’ve been using an e-reader for over five years now. I took to it like a duck to water and before very long at all I was pretty much using e-books exclusively.

As an illustration of my rapid conversion, I heard a dull thud from the front hall about a fortnight after I started using my original Kindle. It was a chunky paperback that I had pre-ordered from Amazon and then forgotten about. It was by one of my favourite authors, so I was happy to receive it – but part of me, a fairly large part, wished that I had cancelled the pre-order and downloaded it as an e-book instead.

After only a couple of weeks using my e-reader, I was a total e-book convert. Manhandling chunky paperbacks, using two hands to read, one to hold the book and another to turn the pages, just seemed old fashioned, medieval almost, to me.

The advantages of e-readers are, in my opinion at least, numerous. However, the real big deal is that reading is (even) more enjoyable with an e-reader.

Making The Switch To E-Books

I started using e-readers and e-books almost exclusively very quickly after being introduced to them. There were a few types of books that were better in print than as an e-book, but these were few and far between.

Reference books were something that I still used in the printed format – but that was mostly for work. Books with lots of colour images are an obvious candidate, but I don’t read a lot of those anyway. That being said, my most recent purchase, which was over a year ago now, of a print book was a recipe book for my halogen oven. I did think about getting the e-book and using my tablet, but the thought of smearing the screen with flour, olive oil and who knows what else, made me opt for the printed version instead.

My e-reader is mainly for fun and entertainment. I tend to buy novels, with the odd history book thrown in. I think that the recipe book was my first purchase of that type in about five years.

Digital Wizards

the color of magic by terry pratchettNovels and most history books work fine on an e-reader, but there was one exception. I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett; I love his Discworld series and find it very entertaining. For a period of time, Terry Pratchett’s novels were one of my rare printed book purchases.

The trouble was/is, that Mr. Pratchett makes extensive use of footnotes in his novels. he uses these to explain various aspects of the Discworld and the characters in it. They are an integral part of the story and the humour.

Trouble was, my original Kindle 2.0 didn’t handle footnotes very well. It was certainly possible to read them, but there was a lot of button pressing and navigating around. I’m happy to admit that it may have been user error rather than any inherent hardware design flaw, but I quite often didn’t make it back to the original point in the story from where I had left to read the footnote. Even when I did find my way back to the correct point in the narrative, it sometimes took me so long (and put me in such a foul temper) that I had lost track of the plot.

So, for a while, Terry Pratchett was the primary cause of my tree killing reading habit. However, since then, e-readers have evolved quite a bit and they handle footnotes a whole lot better. Thanks to touch screen screen technology, footnotes just open in a popup window and it’s easy to get back to where you left off reading the main text. As a result, I have now digitized even Sir Terry and my list of printed book purchases has now dwindled to almost zero.

I think that recipe books, auto-repair manuals and DIY books might be the only prospective purchases in future.

Anyway, however you prefer to read, and whether you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett or not, here’s a short video introduction to the Discworld:

 


Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide

Whisky: The Definitive World Guide – by Michael Jackson

whiskey the definitive world guide by michael JacksonReading is one of my favourite hobbies, drinking whisky is another. I quite often combine the two in fact, and Michael Jackson’s “Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide” is a splendid way to do this.

If you’re looking for detailed tasting notes and a few pointers to choosing your next bottle of single malt, then this may not be the very best book for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a broad ranging introduction to the world of whisky, with lots of background information and historical data, then this might be the ideal choice.

Michael Jackson starts off in Scotland (where else?) and takes the reader on a worldwide tour, moving to Ireland, Canada, the USA, Europe, Australia and Japan – all of these countries have their own tradition of making whisky/whiskey. Jackson covers the development of single malt Scotch, blended Scotch whisky, bourbons and a variety of other whisky variants.

Each location is beautifully illustrated with large photographs, diagrams and sketches to make the information easy to absorb. Dorling Kindersley (DK) is the publisher and the illustrations and graphics really are stunning. Some of the scenic images of Scottish distilleries will have you planning your next golfing holiday.

Even if the author had limited himself to the whiskies of Scotland, it’s an enormous subject. Going worldwide means that there are some fairly broad brush strokes in parts – but the book is intended as a general introduction rather than a detailed examination of any particular aspect, and it works very well on that level.

There are a few tasting notes here and there, but they are a little sparse if you wanted to use them for selection purposes. However, the history of whisky, the impact of geography, ingredients and process on taste, what whisky to combine with different types of food, whether or not to use a whisky decanter and other general topics are all covered.

In short, it’s a great general introduction to the world of whisky. Beautifully illustrated, well written, educational and, above all, entertaining. Grab a glass of your favourite malt and leaf through a few pages each evening.

 

 


The Appeal Of Tablet Computers

Tablet Computers Are A Popular Choice

ipad tablet computerTablet computers are, for many people, the number one computing choice right now. They make up more than 50% of computer sales, outselling laptops and desktops combined. When you bear in mind that they first appeared when Apple launched the iPad in 2010, that’s an amazing result.

Personally speaking, I like to use an e-reader for reading – but I still have a tablet which I use for just about everything else. They really are very handy gadgets and amazingly portable. I had thought that my laptop was a portable device before I got a tablet – but it has a whole bunch of peripherals; cables, mouse, laptop cooling pad etc. that really need to go with it for anything but short term use – until I got my tablet.

And portability is just one of the reasons why tablet computers are so popular. Most people find touchscreen interfaces very easy and intuitive to use these days – much more so than a QWERTY keyboard and mouse. A lot of people who wouldn’t normally sit down at a desktop or laptop will quite happily pick up a tablet and start swiping, poking and prodding away.

I actually sat in my living room fairly recently and watched my two nieces and my mother-in-law all hunched over a tablet computer on the sofa. The age range ran from 4 to 78 years – and they all have their own tablets which they use regularly.

I thought that it was a nice little tableau and a very good illustration of the huge age range that tablets appeal to. I know that my mother-in-law wouldn’t go near a desktop or laptop, and I suspect that my nieces wouldn’t be allowed to.

Tablets can be very educational for children, there are all sorts of apps on the market and parental controls can ensure that the little ones don’t wind up in the wrong place or view inappropriate material. At the other end of the scale, tablet computers for seniors are a great idea. They can offer older family members a whole new window on the world and let them keep up with current affairs, watch movies, keep in touch with friends and family and even play games.

 

Tablet computers really are fun for all ages – and that’s another important part of tablet’s appeal; tablet computers are fun. At the moment, the large majority of tablet computer purchases are for personal use – and most users intend to use them for entertainment – watching movies, playing games, hanging out on social networks, that sort of thing.

Some people (the more grumpy and serious ones) will point out that you can’t be as productive using a tablet as you can with a laptop. That’s perfectly correct of course, but it’s missing the point – tablets are not meant to be productive, they are for fun – which is just one more reason why people like them so much. After all, who wants to open up a humungous spreadsheet when you could be watching a movie or fragging some bad guys?

Tablet computers are becoming more accepted in the corporate world these days, so you might see them becoming a bit more serious (and productive) over the next year or so. It’s not out of the question that Windows tablets could get a bit of a leg up as business types want to interface with their already existing software, apps and documents. However, for the moment, tablet computers are very much for personal fun time! Maybe it’s not so surprising that so many people like them after all.


Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep – By Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Deam Of Electric SheepMost people will be aware of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” as a result of their familiarity with the film “Blade Runner”, directed by Ridley Scott. As a matter of fact, the Amazon “blurb” lists it as “..the inspiration for Bladerunner”.

And that’s probably an accurate description; you could certainly say that it inspired the Blade Runner movie – but no more than that. The film and the book, whilst sharing many common points, are really quite different. If you think that having watched Bladerunner means that you are on anything other than nodding terms with Dick’s book, think again.

I’m not saying that “the book is better than the film” here. Both book and film have their good points – and any book has to be trimmed and more tightly focused when converted into a film. However, despite their various similarities and occasional conjunctions, the book and the film are very different animals.

The book follows android bounty hunter Rick Decker whose job is to hunt down and “retire” runaway androids. The action takes place in a near future on an earth which has been gradually abandoned as the human race colonises Mars.

The world is not exactly post-apocalyptic, but there has been a war which has caused the extinction of many animals and elevated animal husbandry and the keeping of pets to something akin to a social obligation. People are able to control their emotions using a device known as “the Penfield Mood Organ”, which lets them dial in whatever emotional state they wish.

In parallel with this, a new and popular religion, “Mercerism”, has been adopted by many of the remaining inhabitants of Earth. This also involves a device; the “empathy box”, which allows followers of Mercer to share their emotions.

The study of Mercerism throughout the book provides a parallel for the androids as one of the key differences between androids (“Andies”) and humans is that androids do not feel empathy.

A further sub-plot of the book examines Buster Friendly, an enormously popular TV chat show host whose program runs non-stop and whose guests are pretty much famous for being famous. Buster Friendly is antagonistic towards Mercerism and it seems as if TV and religion are competing for the souls of the remainder of the Earth’s populace.

This isn’t (in my opinion at least) presented in a moralistic tone. At no time is it presented as a “good vs. bad” type of struggle. It’s simply that these are the two main competitors for the affections of the population.

In common with the film, the main plot follows bounty hunter Rick Deckard as he attempts to track down and “retire” several of a new design of Android. It’s set in a future version of San Francisco where many apartments are empty due to the post-war exodus to Mars. The rush to leave the planet was evidently so great that many people have even left the greater part of their belongings behind when they left and you get the impression of a world in decline, cluttered with unwanted detritus from the past and without many species of animals.

Without going into the plot in great detail and spoiling it for new readers, the hunt for the androids is the spine of the plot with a variety of other themes being investigated along the way.

If you have seen the film, but not read the book, you’ll still enjoy the book. There’s a whole lot more to it (no criticism of the film – different media have different constraints). Having seen the film will not spoil the book for you in the slightest.

On the other hand, if you haven’t seen the film and you read the book first, you’ll still be able to enjoy the film, but you might just find yourself wondering “where’s the rest?”.

Dick paints a picture of a bleak, dystopian future and raises questions about what it means to be human (I think). It’s an amazing book and it really should be compulsory reading.

Footnote: "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and 
"Bladerunner" is not the only time that Philp K. Dick's work 
has inspired a movie which differed significantly from the 
original writing. If you have watched the movie, it's well 
worth taking the time to read Dick's short story which, once 
again, shares some central ideas but is really very different 
from the film.

 


The Broken Empire Trilogy

The Broken Empire Trilogy – by Mark Lawrence

prince of thorn the broken empire trilogyThe Broken Empire trilogy, by Mark Lawrence is actually quite hard to categorise. It is, I suppose, fantasy fiction – but it is definitely very different to many (most?) of the other titles in the genre. It is a fresh approach, and fantasy fans will love it.

“Mark Lawrence is the best thing to happen to fantasy in recent years”

- Peter V. Brett, International best selling author

All of the books in the series are related in the first person by the main protagonist; Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath, and a very interesting character he is. I think that it would be wrong to describe Jorg as an “anti-hero”.

Those anti-hero guys are usually people who have done bad things but have a good heart and who eventually do the right thing. Prince Jorg has certainly done bad things. Whether or not he has a good heart probably depends on your own personal frame of reference.

Whether or not he will – eventually – do the right thing is something that will be revealed at the end of the trilogy. However, once you’re even a few pages in, you probably wouldn’t want to place any bets on it.

Neither should you expect a lot of soul searching and angst regarding Jorg’s various misdemeanours or the people who have suffered as a result. He seems to have a fairly pragmatic view of it all. Revenge is definitely something he understands much more intimately than remorse.

Prince Jorg isn’t necessarily bad, although he has done, and continues to do bad things. In fact, you will feel fairly confident that he will be doing bad things in future. He probably has a list that he’s working through or something.

Of course, and to be fair, he has been through quite a bit and had some bad things visited upon his head himself. More of that later.

Unlike many other works in the genre, Jorg doesn’t seem to be on a heroic quest. If he has a clear heroic goal, it’s not immediately apparent. He does certainly have ambitions and plans – but these are self serving in the main. Prince Jorg doesn’t exactly “go with the flow”, but he is driven by self preservation and advancement, a keen eye for the main chance and a certain amount of, rather endearing, natural curiosity.

Hopefully I’m not painting too black a picture of the main character here. The thing is, you will, in all probability, like Jorg and root for him as he gets into a variety of scrapes and tight corners.

As mentioned earlier, the story is told entirely in the first person, from Prince Jorg’s, at times somewhat jaundiced, perspective. This has two main effects. Firstly, the books in the series are fast paced and very engaging tales. Secondly, you will get to know Jorg rather well. You may even begin to understand and, to a certain extent, sympathise with his outlook on life.

If you’re a lover of fantasy, then you will probably enjoy this trilogy immensely.

Prince Of Thorns – by Mark Lawrence

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The first book in the Broken Empire trilogy, and Mark Lawrence’s first published novel, “Prince of Thorns” introduces us to Prince Jorg Honorous Ancrath.

However, when we first meet up with Jorg, he is leading a band of vagabonds and cut-throats through a landscape that seems to be in a permanent state of warfare. This is due to the fact that the position of Emperor is vacant – and has been for some time. One hundred Kings, Princes and other nobles spend pretty much all of their time manoeuvring for position, something which involves a fair bit of bloodshed unfortunately.

It’s a very un-princely way of life, and it isn’t clear how Jorg found himself in this situation. Not even his companions of the road are aware of his high status. The facts are gradually, teasingly at times, revealed, both to the reader and his companions, as the plot unfolds.

The first person narrative moves things along at a fair old lick, and flashbacks, still in the first person, are used to flesh out the history of the world and develop the plot. As you get further into the book, details about the history of the world are hinted at and drip fed to the reader, until it becomes clear that this isn’t the standard fantasy backdrop to this type of novel.

It’s a great read, a real page turner. The character of Jorg, being both the main protagonist and the narrator, is absolutely central to everything. He will drag you along as the story unfolds, and you’ll be more than happy to hang on to his coat tails.

If you like fantasy, but maybe you’ve had enough of dragons, orcs and wizards for a while, take a break and try this. It’s fresh and different, but with all of the elements required for a truly great epic fantasy novel.

I enjoyed this immensely. I had barely finished it when I was downloading the second volume in the series. Can’t really say any more than that.

King Of Thorns –  Broken Empire Trilogy Volume II

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King of Thorns finds Jorg on the throne of a small mountainous kingdom. He has avenged his mother’s death, killed his uncle and seized the throne. Things seem to be looking up more than a little.

Unfortunately, the arrival of a 20,000 strong army, who have definitely not come to wish Jorg good luck on his imminent wedding to a very young princess, looks set to put a bit of a damper on things. It’s a force which is too large, too well trained and too experienced for Jorg’s small kingdom to resist – unless Jorg comes up with some clever, or sneaky, plan.

There’s going to be one almighty battle, and Jorg needs to think of something to tip the scales in his favour. Just as well that he’s such a very resourceful (and unscrupulous) chap.

The battle is epic and entertaining – but it’s really just the backdrop for the author’s larger story.

Whereas Prince of Thorns was entirely in the first person, King of Thorns is mainly in the first person. Mark Lawrence introduces some elements which are written from the point of view of Katherine, Jorg’s step-aunt (and love interest).

Katherine’s perspective takes the form of journal entries. It is interesting to get another point of view of events, and Jorg’s part in them of course. It does mean that this volume is just a little less fast paced than the first one, but it’s hardly pedestrian.

Emperor Of Thorns – Broken Empire Trilogy Volume III

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The final volume in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy finds the hundred rulers of the world heading for a congress to vote for a new emperor. This is a periodic meeting, and normally nobody gains enough votes and the position is left unfilled.

Needless to say, Jorg has ambitions to fill the role. He is the ruler of seven kingdoms by this time, and an expectant father to boot. Even so, the odds are stacked against him – as usual.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a novel of dry negotiations and political intrigue, although there is intrigue aplenty. It may be the most violent of the books in the trilogy – action packed if you prefer.

Once again a lot of the narrative is in the first person, with extensive use of flashbacks to develop the plot and set the scene. Mark Lawrence provides quite a bit more detail about the history of the world in which these events take place. Readers who enjoyed the first two novels in the series, but who had some queries, may well find them answered here.

It’s a great ending to a wonderful series of books. Highly recommended.

The Broken Empire In Summary

This trilogy is a refreshingly different approach to fantasy fiction – and one which fantasy fans will love. The central character drags you along with him on a series of adventures and escapades and, despite his many, many character flaws, you will empathise with, and root for him every step of the way.

It’s interesting to see how Jorg’s character is developed and explained as the books progress – and the background history to the world, the Broken Empire, is also fleshed out piece by tantalising piece.

It’s an immersive read. Definitely one of the best additions to the genre for a long time.


Raising Steam

Raising Steam – by Terry Pratchett

raising steam by terry pratchett“Raising Steam” is Terry Pratchett’s 40th Discworld novel – quite an achievement! It seems to be a novel that has split his legions of fans, some of whom feel that this latest offering is “not in keeping” with the Discworld series. That being said, it doesn’t seem to be a fifty-fifty split, most Discworld fans (including me) seem happy enough.

It’s certainly true that the latter Discworld novels, from about “Monstrous Regiment” onwards, have been getting a little grittier – some would say darker. “Raising Steam” may be the grittiest yet, but if that’s the way that Sir Terry wants to take it, then fair enough. He is the author after all.

Personally speaking, I have always found that although Discworld and Ankh-Morpork are full of wizards, werewolves, vampires, trolls, dwarves, goblins etc. – you definitely feel right at home. It has always been full of humanity’s triumphs and failures – albeit that many of the key players are not human (and some of them are downright inhuman} – and that has surely been a great part of its appeal. However, it may just be that Terry Pratchett is currently making these just a little too obvious for some readers.

For myself, I enjoyed the book. Yes it is a little darker than the last one, which was a little darker than the one before – and so forth, but I don’t think Pratchett has taken things “too far”. It remains an enjoyable read, outrageously funny at points and with plenty in jokes and references to his earlier Discworld novels. The fact that Discworld’s parallels with our own society are a little more in your face doesn’t spoil thing for me at all. You may not agree of course.

In summary, the railroad has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – and it’s going to spread throughout the Disc. It’s a new and exciting age which is bringing change to Ankh-Morpork and Discworld as a whole. Change can be a good thing, as long as it’s properly controlled of course, which is why Lord Vetinari “appoints” Moist von Lipwig (in the form of an offer he can’t refuse) as controller of railway development.

It’s nothing short of the industrial revolution on Discworld, with all the opportunities for success and epoch changing events that entails – and all of the backstabbing and underhand tactics that huge stakes like that always engender. It’s up to Moist to keep thing on the right track.

It is the darkest of the Discworld novels to date, but I enjoyed it (and laughed out loud a few times) nevertheless. Fans of Discworld will enjoy this book – but if you’re new to Terry Pratchett’s work, I would probably start with one of the earlier novels. “The Colour of Magic (Discworld)“, being the first in the series, would be as good a starting point as any.

         

 


The Song of Troy

The Song of Troy – By Colleen McCullough

the song of troy colleen mcculloughTo be honest, I had never read a Colleen McCullough novel until I found myself up-country in India with nothing to read. I kind of associated her mainly with the “Thorn Birds” mini series, which I hadn’t much cared for. Of course, it’s always a mistake to judge any author by a TV or film dramatisation of their work, but I did it subconsciously I think.

Anyway, I found a copy of ” The First Man in Rome“, the first volume in her excellent Masters of Rome series in a second hand book store and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed it hugely, and I went on to read all of the other books in the series – but not before I got hold of a copy of The Song of Troy, which I also enjoyed immensely.

The tale of Troy is thousands of years old. Originally recounted by Homer in “The Iliad “, it’s a story which has been told and retold countless times by countless authors.

Colleen McCullough chooses to tell the story in the first person, from the point of view of the main characters. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the key players in the drama, and most of them get more than one chapter to relate “their side of the story”. Helen, Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, Priam, Agamemnon, and more – all give their account of events.

It’s a clever approach by the author. The first person perspective allows the story to move along at a reasonably fast rate, whilst still exploring different facets of the conflict from the perspective of different characters.

In truth, with such a star studded cast of characters, it would be difficult to select one main protagonist. Ms McCullough’s approach gets round that problem very adroitly indeed and provides the reader with an account which is readable and extremely enjoyable, but which examines this timeless tale in the depth which it deserves.


Differences Between E-Readers And Tablet Computers

E-Readers

Amazon Kindle Voyage E-ReaderAs a keen reader, I’m a big fan of e-readers – although I do know that they may not be everybody’s cup of tea. Some people – bibliophiles in the strictest sense of the word – still prefer to use paper books. Each to his/her own.

For myself, the convenience of carrying huge numbers of books with me wherever I go on a device that is small, lightweight and has a battery life measured in weeks, far outweighs any nostalgic notions I may have for “real” books.

The fact that the e-ink display is great to read on is the most important thing of course. I find it very natural and when I’m enjoying a good book, I’m not even aware that I’m using an electronic gadget rather than reading a traditional book. To be honest, I find traditional books heavy and cumbersome these days, I definitely prefer an e-reader.

E-Readers And Tablet Computers

Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet computerI like tablet computers as well as e-readers, but I really only use them for playing games, surfing the net, sending e-mails etc. I would never sit down to read an e-book on a tablet.

The back-lit colour screen of a tablet computer is great for videos, gaming and general internet stuff, but I find that reading a book is much less pleasant on an LCD screen. I saw someone describe this as “like trying to read when someone is shining a light in your eyes”, and I would concur.

It’s certainly possible to read on a tablet, but, for me at least, it’s something that I would only do for a few minutes at a time. If I want to settle down and lose myself in a good book for an hour or so, then I’m going to get my e-reader rather than my tablet.

With that being said, my son has both an e-reader and a tablet and he reads on his tablet all the time. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all – so maybe it’s just my old eyes.

Whether the reaction to the display is age dependant or not, there are some further distinctions between e-readers and tablets.

E-Readers Tablet Computers
  • E-ink technology display.
  • Monochrome display.
  • Read in bright sunlight or in a darkened room (readers with lights only).
  • Battery life measured in weeks.
  • Great for reading for lengthy periods. No eye strain.
  • “Experimental” web browsing at best.
  • No video playback.
  • Light and portable (8 ounces or less is typical).
  • Relatively cheap (plenty available for less than $ 100)
  • Back-lit LCD display.
  • Color display.
  • Read in a dark room, but may have glare in bright sunlight.
  • Battery life measured in hours.
  • Not well suited for lengthy reading sessions – back-lit screen might cause eye strain.
  • Brilliant for browsing.
  • Great video playback.
  • Still portable but heavier (e.g. iPad Air 1 lb).
  • Currently a little pricey.

E-readers are specialised devices. They excel at one thing and one thing only – letting you read books. They are a much better choice if you want to read.

Tablet computers are great, super versatile all round devices. They are much more powerful (and more expensive) than e-readers, but while they can do a lot of things that e-readers can’t, reading on them for more than a few minutes at a time isn’t anywhere near as enjoyable as it is when using an e-reader.

Thankfully, it’s not an either/or choice. Prices of both e-readers and tablets have fallen to the point where you can very easily get one of each. Both devices are also small enough and light enough that you could carry one of each without putting too much strain on either your back or your hand luggage allowance.

The short video below summarises the benefits of e-readers very well:

 


Olaf The Glorious

A Story Of The Viking Age

Olaf the Glorious A Story Of The Viking AgeHistorical fiction is very popular these days, and Nordic adventures are enjoying a bit of a resurgence. Robert Low’s “Oathsworn” series is a great example.

“Olaf The Glorious – A Story of the Viking Age” is a much earlier work, but still worth a read. It’s actually based on historical events – or a version of these which appeared in various Icelandic sagas and the Anglo-Saxon chronicles.

In fact, authors like Robert Low have used this as a reference work for their own novels. One of the central characters in the Oathsworn series – Crowbone – is based on Olaf The Glorious.

Olaf the Glorious is Olaf Triggvysson – and you may expect to see a variety of different spelling of his name if you chance upon him in other works of fiction. Probably best if we just call him Olaf from here on in. He was a real historical character who lived, as far as we know, between 963 and 1000 AD.

Olaf spent time as a slave in his youth – but he was a prince of Norway, and not about to remain a captive for very long. He eventually escaped from slavery and embarked upon a series of adventures which took him all over Europe and the Middle East (the Vikings were very well travelled) before pressing his claim for the throne of Norway.

Olaf eventually becomes King of Norway before meeting his end, in a suitably heroic manner, during an epic sea battle against a combined fleet of Swedes, Danes and rebel Norwegians.

Robert Leighton has produced a book which is historically accurate, but never dry. There are times when it does read like a bit of Victorian “Boys Own” fiction, which is hardly surprising given its vintage (first published in 1894), but over the piece, it’s a bit of a page turner really.

It’s a great read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and who likes Viking sagas in particular. As mentioned earlier, it has been used as a reference for a variety of more modern works, and reading it may enhance your enjoyment of these even further.

It’s available on Amazon as a free Kindle download and you can also find it for free on Project Gutenberg – in a variety of different formats.

Here are a few other Viking books for your info and enjoyment: