Viking: King’s Man

Written by Tim Severin


This is the third and final novel in Tim Severin’s Viking trilogy, which tells the eventful life story of Thorgils, a Viking adventurer of the first half of the 11th century. The novel opens in Constantinople in 1035 with Thorgils, under the leadership of warrior chief Harald Sigurdsson, involved in combating Arab pirates in the Mediterranean and engaged in a campaign to recover Sicily from the Saracens. It ends in 1066 with Harald’s defeat at the Battle of Stamford Bridge and the consequent triumph of William of Normandy over Harold Godwinson’s exhausted army. Severin proposes a conspiracy between Harald and William to defeat Harold, on which William reneges at the last minute. Thorgils is warned of his treachery in a prophetic dream.

As one would expect of Severin, who is as much explorer as creative artist, this is fine boy’s own adventure, intricately plotted and action-packed. The author’s research is impeccable, if a little too heavily laid on for this reviewer. The writing style is plain and unpretentious, designed to draw no attention to itself but to focus the mind on the scheming and fighting it narrates. Despite Severin’s meticulous and vivid recreation of Thorgils’ world, I found the book ultimately rather emotionless and unengaging. Thorgils has little inner life, but this will not be a drawback for those who enjoy adventure stories in an authentic early mediaeval setting.