... an absorbing and humane account of how the long-ago ancestors of modern-day Scandinavians—the Vikings—shaped Europe as warriors and how, later, their more orderly descendants left a profound cultural and material mark on the U.S. as immigrants ... If the book’s title reflects Mr. Herman’s nakedly romantic commitment to his story and people, its subtitle—'How Scandinavians Conquered the World'—brings to mind his best-known work, How the Scots Invented the Modern World (2001). At a time when academic historians slice their subjects into slivers so specialized that there’s often nothing left of popular interest in their theses, readers should give thanks to historians like Mr. Herman, for whom there’s nothing more important than to tell a good story that ranges over many centuries and to tell it in vigorous prose ... Handsome in conception, too, are Mr. Herman’s chapters on the Scandinavians’ migration to America.
Whether you’re new to Viking scholarship or a well-read medievalist, The Viking Heart has something to offer. While there are some places where Herman could have better amplified the advantages Scandinavians experienced as immigrants at the turn of the 20th century, all in all, The Viking Heart honestly assesses the results of the Vikings’ past actions around the world and makes an evenhanded argument for the importance of Viking culture in U.S. history ... As we wrestle with how to make our world a better, more equal place, The Viking Heart provides a framework for recognizing the importance of the past in shaping our present and future.
Herman expertly and delicately weaves Scandinavian history and its impact on and assimilation into communities on almost every continent over the centuries into one extremely well-researched and engaging tome. An historian with Norwegian ancestry, he provides a thoughtful, comprehensive, and multidisciplinary discussion of how the Scandinavians, through raids, exploration, conquest, and settlement changed the socioeconomic, cultural, and religious aspects of numerous societies ... Amid tales of adventure and rich descriptions of the places the Vikings journeyed to, Herman includes extensive archaeology and DNA evidence to support his investigation of many facets of Norse languages, mythology, and cultures, creating a fresh and wholly engaging reassessment of the legendary Vikings.
The entire book is interesting and thoroughly researched, but most readers (perhaps especially those of Scandinavian descent) will be particularly interested once Herman’s narrative reaches U.S. soil, where familiar historical figures and events begin to factor in ... As in Herman’s previous books, his writing is engaging and accessible and will engage fans of popular history. It doesn’t aim to be an in-depth, exhaustive history, but rather offers some highlights and bite-sized narratives that make it an excellent armchair read.
... ambitious yet unconvincing ... The vignettes are appealing, but amount to a historical highlight reel, rather than a cohesive and convincing narrative. This sweeping look at the Viking legacy never takes full sail.