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The Golden Horn (Last Viking) Paperback – February, 1980

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Last Viking Series

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Product Details

  • Series: Last Viking
  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Zebra (February 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0890835977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0890835975
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,339,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
A review of ‘The Last Viking’ trilogy.

This trilogy is the most significant modern account of the fascinating the life of Harald Sigurdharson (1015-66), who became Norway’s King Harald III, given the epithet Hardhraadhi (Hardråde, Hardrada, Hardrede), meaning “strict ruler or hard counsel”. The prolific American writer, Poul Anderson (1926-2001), who was himself of Norwegian ancestry, scoured numerous historical documents and saga narratives to bring veracity to these books. Almost every main character has been based on actual persons and, for the most part, their real life situations and accomplishments.

The reader follows Harald from childhood to the age of fifteen in 1030 when he fought at the Battle of Stiklastadh (Stiklestad), a peasant uprising against the king, who was his older half-brother, Olaf Haraldsson, called Olaf the Stout. He, King Olaf II, died in that epic battle. He was later canonized by the Pope and given the epithet “the Holy one.” Harald escaped to Russia where he became loyal to Kiev’s Grand Prince Yaroslav and eventually obtained the rank of captain. In 1034 he and a horde of Norsemen went south to Constantinople where Harald rose to become commander of the Byzantine Varangian Guard. He fought in varies battles in the Mediterranean area and became renowned for his acumen and prowess. He accumulated great wealth and escaped the clutches of the Byzantine Empire in 1042, returning to Yaroslav where he prepared for his return to Norway where he eventually succeeded to claim his right to the throne. In 1044 he had married Yaroslav’s daughter, Elizabeth (Ellisif), and who became his queen.

Harald was king of Norway for almost twenty years.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I’m a fan of history. Any history really. I love it all. But tales of the Vikings have always been one of my favorites, especially when it is filled with examples of their legendary prowess as warriors. And The Golden Horn, Poul Anderson gives me just that, as he takes a close look at one of the most famous Vikings of all: Harald Sigurdharson (1015-66), who became Norway’s King Harald III.

The tale begins with a teenage Harald fighting along side his older half-brother, Olaf the Stout, at the Battle of Stiklestad. This uprising against King Olaf caused by his devotion to the Christian faith and his constant restrictions against the old ways of worship. The naive and untested Harald discovering first hand the brutality of war and the fickleness of fate.

Unfortunately (according to you perspective, I suppose), the battle goes ill for Olaf, resulting in the king’s death and causing young Harald to flee into exile. His path eventually taking him to Russia where he becomes a mercenary to the ruler of Novgorod before he eventually finds his way to Constantinople where he is determined to become the commander of the Byzantine Varangian Guard. All along the way, Harald fights varies battles, makes innumerable friends and allies, and constantly plans to return home to press his claim to the throne of Norway.

Throughout this near biographical story, Poul Anderson attempts to highlight for a reader both the tough-as-nails warrior mentality of Harald as well as showing that he had other, less celebrated qualities. To this end, Mr.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Set in the mid-eleventh century, “The Golden Horn” by Poul Anderson covers the early life of King Harald Hadrada. At the time of the novel, Harald is a Norwegian Prince in exile after Cnut the Great, king of Denmark and England, defeated Harald’s half-brother, King Olaf the Stout, to claim Norway’s throne. This is the second book I’ve read about Harald, but it’s the first one that portrays him as a noble – yet highly ambitious – hero.

After his half-brother’s death, Harald flees to Russia (which, incidentally, had been founded by Northmen) to the house of Jaroslav, Grand Prince of the Rus. There, Harald grows into manhood as a seven-foot-tall warrior, whom Anderson describes as “curt and haughty” with “small taste for bookish learning.” He’s the classic warrior-hero of twentieth century fiction, along the lines of Conan the Cimmerian, for “no one could stand before him in battle or sport.” All Harald dreams of is reclaiming Norway’s throne, but until the moment is right, Jaroslav convinces Harald to bide time in legendary Miklagardh, where he could win fame and fortune serving in the emperor’s Varangian Guard.

Miklagardh – a Norse name for Constantinople – is where most of the book takes place, and gives the book its title, the “Golden Horn,” referring to the primary inlet of the Bosporus around the great city. It is also the place where the book hits its stride, as Harald soon finds himself caught up in the politics and machinations of the Byzantine court. After joining the Varangians, a group of rollicking Northmen who serve as the emperor’s elite soldiers, Harald becomes noticed by the Empress Zoe, a bawdy, yet cunning woman rumored to have poisoned her first husband. He also earns the attention of John the Monk, the emperor’s ruthless and conniving brother.
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