Book Review
Weapons of the Viking Warrior
Weapons of the Viking Warrior
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

This is a review by Randy L Harvey of Weapons of the Viking Warrior by author Gareth Williams and illustrator Johnny Shumate.


Gareth Williams has been a curator at the British Museum since 1996, specializing in the Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods. He has published extensively on both Anglo-Saxon and Viking warfare, and curated the exhibitions 'Vikings: Life and Legend' at the British Museum and 'Viking Voyagers' at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. He was also involved for many years in Viking re-enactment, and has fought with modern replicas of most of the main weapon types discussed in this book. He lives in Staffordshire, UK.


Johnny Shumate works as a freelance illustrator living in Nashville, Tennessee. He began his career in 1987 after graduating from Austin Peay State University. Most of his work is rendered in Adobe Photoshop using a Cintiq monitor. His greatest influences are Angus McBride, Don Troiani and …douard Detaille.

    ** Between the late 8th and late 11th century, Viking warriors had a massive impact not just in northern Europe, but across a huge arc, from the western Mediterranean round though northern Europe and the Baltic to the Middle East and Central Asia. Their success depended in part on their skills in battle, their unique sense of strategic mobility, and on the quality of their weapons and equipment. Written by an expert on early medieval weaponry, this book examines the weapons of the typical Viking warrior, dispels myths of the popular image, such as double-headed axes, and considers the variety of weapons that actually underpinned the Vikingís success, including bows and arrows. Drawing upon contemporary literary and historical accounts from the North Atlantic to the Arab world, surviving examples of weapons and armour, and practical experimentation and reconstructions by modern weapon-smiths and re-enactors, this study casts new light on how Viking weapons were made and used in battle. **** Quoted from the back cover of the book.

Osprey Publications has released Weapons of the Viking Warrior as Number 66 in their Weapon series. It is a soft cover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions and more. It has a 2019 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-1835-5.

    - Introduction
    - Development
    - An Array of weaponry
    - Use
    - Viking weapons in combat
    - Impact
    - Influence and legacy
    - Conclusion
    - Bibliography
    - Index

Author Gareth Williams discusses various Viking weapons and other items that were in use during the Viking era. Gareth Williams discusses the development and use of Viking swords, spears, knives, shields, bows, arrows, helmets and more. Williams goes into great detail in regards to the era in which the specific weapon was used, what led to its development, what led to any changes that were made to it, the processes used in manufacturing the weapon, how it was used in combat, the pros and cons of the weapon compared to close quarter formation combat and individual open combat and much much more. In addition to discussing the weapons themselves Williams also goes into great detail in regard to the training that the Vikings went through as well as the procedures put into place when in combat such as various fighting formations and what had influenced their choice of combat formations. Also discussed is the type of armor worn by the Vikings such as chainmail and the various Viking helmets used.

Williams also discusses various false Viking myths that have been created due to influences such as movies. The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. As I read through the text, I didnít notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the various Viking weapons that were in use during the Viking era to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.

A total of 7 black and white photographs and 52 color photographs are included in this volume. The photographs are close-up detailed photographs of various weapons associated with the Vikings. Due to the fact that there are obviously no period photographs of the Viking era all of the photographs feature in this volume are modern and therefore are all of a good quality and provide a wealth of details. Author Gareth Williams stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. I did notice that the illustration on page 17, which accompanies a photograph of a Petersen type T from Kosgarden Asnes Hedemark, Norway shows a variety of Petersenís hilt types, the illustration listed as K in the caption is missing the letter K under the drawing of that particular hilt. It isnít really an issue as there are nine types of hilts shown and they all have their corresponding letter under them with the exception of K. So, it is easy to figure out which hilt is K but I figured I should still list this as a fault since I noticed it and feel like I should let the other readers know about it. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in period Viking weaponry and period blacksmithing procedures due to the details they contain.

There are 4 color illustrations provided in this volume by illustrator Johnny Shumate. Each of the illustration comes with a detailed caption explaining what is taking place in the scene as well as pointing out certain points or individuals depicted. The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:

Plate A

Making pattern-welded swords

- A one-page illustration showing two blacksmiths at work manufacturing swords. I like the illustration as it shows equipment of the period and how a shop may have been set up during that period of history.

Plate B

Vikings in battle, mid-10th century

- A two-page illustration depicting the fighting between a Viking army and another army, not mentioned who. The scene shows combat both on foot and horseback. Depicted are lancers, archers, swordsmen and axe wielders. A nice illustration showing the closeness of hand to hand combat of the period.

Plate C

Sea battle, c.900

- A two-page illustration depicting a sea battle between Vikings and an unnamed enemy. A portion of this illustration is shown on the front cover of the book. A nice illustration showing what a sea battle being waged by the Vikings may have looked like by anyone that witnesses it.

Plate D

Attack on a fortification, c.1000
(see attached scan)

- A one-page illustration showing Vikings warriors wielding axes and swords as well as wearing chainmail armor, helmets and shields attacking an Anglo-Saxon burh (fortification or fortified settlement). This is a nice illustration that shows the Vikings in full battle regalia as they would have appeared during that specific time frame.

Please refer to the scan that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.


The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as pointing out certain features of the item and what those features accomplished, whether the item shown was for actual combat or for decoration or training, the specific blacksmithing processed used to achieve the end result, why the item was designed as it was and what the item was used for, the location where the item had been found, and other such pertinent information. I was impressed by Gareth Williamsí captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail.


There is 1 color map included in this volume and it is of:

- The Siege of Paris, 885-86


There are 3 notes included in this volume and they are:

- Dedication
- Acknowledgements
- Editorís note

As with the other Osprey Publishing titles I was impressed with this book. This is a very nice reference book that contains a well written informative text, many subject specific photographs and illustrations, well detailed captions and more, all detailing various Viking weapons that were in use during the Viking era. As with the other Osprey Publishing titles, I would have no hesitation to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to oneís personal reference library.

Osprey Publishing also offers Weapons of the Viking Warrior as:

eBook (ePub)
eBook (PDF)

Weapons of the Viking Warrior is also available as a Kindle version through Amazon.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.

UK £13.99 / US $22.00 / CAN $29.00
Highs: Well written text and captions. Subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing to mention.
Verdict: An excellent volume by Osprey Publishing. Definitely beneficial to the Viking and weapons enthusiast and historian.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-4728-1835-5
  PUBLISHED: Mar 02, 2020

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


Thank you for getting this posted for me Fred. I appreciate it as always. Randy
MAR 02, 2020 - 04:52 AM

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