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Eaters of the Dead
by Michael Crichton

Category: Fiction / Historical
288 pages; ISBN: : 0345354613

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Judith Woolcock Colombo


Mixing fact with fiction in his novel "Eaters Of the Dead," Michael Crichton transports his readers back one-thousand-years and engages them with a spell binding adventure. This story originated from actual journal entries of an Arab nobleman who traveled with a group of Vikings throughout northern Europe.

In A.D. 921 Iban- Fadlan, the reluctant emissary of the ruler of Baghdad, the City of Peace, crosses the Caspian sea and journeys up the valley of the Volga on a mission to the King of Saqaliba the home of the Buglars. Before he can reach his destination he encounters a group of Viking warriors. The Warriors are awaiting the death of their chieftain Wyglif. The Vikings have selected a young noble Buliwyf to be their next chieftain.

After Wyglif’s death and burial, Buliwyf, the new chieftain is summoned home to Scandinavia by King Rothgar. A terrible monster, one that cannot be named, is ravishing the land and the King needs Buliwyf’s help. Buliwyf is told by an aged shaman called the Angel of Death that he will need eleven warriors to accompany him. The last warrior, the thirteenth, cannot be a Northman. Once again Iban Fadlan is forced to take a journey that he has not chosen.

Fadlan is at first repelled by these "barbarians" who have poor hygiene and gorge themselves on food, alcohol and sex. Over time, through his friendship with Herger, one of Buliwyf ‘s young warriors, who knew “some of the Latin tongue” and later with Buliwyf himself, Fadlan begins to understand these barbarians and later comes to admire them. He soon finds himself engaged in the adventure of his life, one he will later chronicle for his Caliph.

I found this book to be well written and engaging. Crichton mixes the story of Ahmad Iban –Fadlan with the myth of Beowulf to create a wonderful adventure. If you have seen the movie The Thirteenth Warrior based on the book, but have not read "Eaters of the Dead", I suggest you do so. Although the movie was enjoyable the novel is much better.

Judith Woolcock Colombo: Author of The Fablesinger & Night Crimes
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