Review: Old Norse for Modern Times by Ian Stuart Sharpe

Rating: 9/10


Never be lost for words again…with this book of lost words. Have you ever wanted to wield the silver tongue of Loki, or to hammer home your point like a Thundergod? Old Norse is the language of legends and the stuff of sagas, the inspiration for Tolkien and Marvel, for award-winning manga and epic videogames. It is the language of cleverly crafted kennings, blood-curdling curses, and pithy retorts to Ragnarök. Old Norse for Modern Times gives you the perfect phrase for every contemporary situation—from memorable movie quotes (“We’re going to need a bigger boat.” Þurfa munu vér skip stærra) to battle-cries to yell on Discord (“Do I look to be in a gaming mood?” Sýnisk þér ek vera í skapi til leika?), from mead hall musings (“This drink, I like it! ANOTHER!” Líkar mér drykkr þessi! ANNAN!) to tried-and-tested pickup lines (“Nice tattoo!” Fagrt er húðflúrið”). With over 500 phrases inside (plus the chance to add your own!) it is the perfect guide for Vikings fans, whether they are re-enactors, role-players, or simply in love with Ragnar.


Thank you Ian for supplying me with a copy of your book for an honest review.

This is an oddity for me, I’m reviewing something that isn’t a fantasy book….

I’m always very honoured when an author comes to me with a request to review a book, I find it a massive compliment and it also fulfils a dream of mine that I’ve had for many years, so when Ian Stuart Sharpe came to me asking if I would review the book that he wrote along with Dr. Arngrímur Vídalín, a professor of Icelandic Literature and Joshua Gillingham, a fellow Canadian author, I quickly said yes. This book was “Old Norse for a Modern Time”, a language guide of sorts, not the most practical one I will say, definitely not the sort that will help you survive a trip to Iceland but maybe one that could get you a few laughs from the locals. When Sharpe sent through this request, I was already heavily steeped into the beautiful Norse world written by John Gwynne (The Shadow of the Gods), so how could I say no? I mean learning a few extra words to immerse myself that little bit more into a world and culture I love, that felt like a rather good idea. Learning a few extra words so that every time I challenge someone to Holmgang* I have something else to back it up with instead of just beating my own chest, that felt like a great idea.

*You may at this point go “Dale, how many times have you challenged someone to Holmgang, it can’t be that often?” Well, its four, and I only learned the word in May.

Honestly if this book does one thing other than entertain, I hope its that it helps to set off a spark of curiosity, Norse history is beautiful and incredibly rich, and you should delve into it fully. It features in so much of what we love, from movies like Marvels, Thor, some of our favourite tv shows, Vikings and The Last Kingdom being possibly some of the best things on TV, all the way to our favourite fantasy such as Tolkien’s epics. Norse mythology and Old Norse Culture isn’t something that’s mentioned enough or taught in our schools, we learn about the Greeks and Romans and other ancient civilisations but learn so little about the Norse who had such massive impacts on our world and even more so on my own little country.

Now there’s two ways to enjoy this great little book, I read some actual pages, and being a man that can barely speak my own first language of English, let alone a scrap of old Norse, it comes with a handy little guide at the beginning to some of the non-Latin letters that haven’t been used in our own language in 500 years (a little titbit I stole from the book, extra points for learning!). Plus, as an added bonus, the professor has added a few handy notes throughout, these are wonderfully entertaining and useful for what you’re reading. There is also a fantastic audio book version that has beautifully accurate and appropriate pronunciations which I would also urge you too check out if you want to make sure you get these perfectly correct, unlike my own butchered attempts when trying out some of my favourites to my magnificent little better half.

Here’s some of my favourites, and honestly this is only from the first half, there’s some beautiful pop culture references in here that had me chuckling.

If I die in battle today, please delete my browser history.

 Ef ek skylda falla í þessi orrustu, fyrirkom þú þá vefsǫgu minni.

Gods, is that the time? My wife will have me blood-eagled.

 Við guðin, es svá áliðit orðit? Kona mín mun rista mér blóðǫrn.

May the Force be with you.

Megi fjǫlkynngin fylgia yðr

I am the monster parents tell their children about at night.

Ek em skrímsl þat, es foreldrar kveða um til barna sinna á kvǫldin

What do you mean the Easter bunny isn’t real either?

 Ósvinnu mælir þú, at páskahérinn sé hugarburðr einn?

I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow to the knee.

 Vas ek víkingr sem þú, áðr ek fekk ǫr í knéð

After reading through this I found out Ian Stuart Sharpe has actually published a few other books and honestly, they sound amazing. One thing I really could feel through the small amount of writing I experienced, and the reviews of Sharpe’s other books, was the passion he has for this subject. The research and knowledge he’s poured into these books clearly shows and I can’t wait to read more of his writing. Sharpe’s VikingVerse is an alternate History where the Norse culture didn’t die out in favour of Christianity, the Vikings now rule the Stars and the Seas with their Restless Fleet, reviews calling it part history, part fantasy and part sci-fi, I call it a series I’ve quickly added to my TBR.

Old Norse is a fantastic quick little read, educational, and humorous, even if it’s not something quite up your alley it’s a perfect little gift for that friend you know that loves everything Norse, and if there’s one thing you can take away today, it’s that Viking helmets didn’t have horns.

Go buy this great little book.

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