I just finished reading The Normans: From Raiders to Kings (Full disclosure, I received a free review copy from Crux Publishing via Librarything.com) and I can heartily recommend this book. Most people probably have a very limited idea of who the Normans were, their knowledge not going beyond “those were the guys in the Bayeax Tapestry.”
Lars Brownworth‘s book fills in the gaps, and provides a detailed history of the Normans were. He also sets forth a convincing argument for how the Normans helped lead Western Europe out of the Dark Ages and into a place of prominence in the world.
The majority of the book revolves around the Hauteville family. This one family, descended from Vikings: conquered Sicily and Southern Italy; influenced events in Europe, Asia and Africa; and participated in the Norman conquest of England. You get separate chapters on each of the major family members, covering the high points of their lives in thorough detail. That leads to one of the quibbles I have with this book. When you give us a thorough telling of the life of say, Tancred of Hauteville and then follow it with a chapter covering the life of Tancred’s son William Iron-Arm there is bound to be repetition. Tancred had three sons that became legendary figures in their own right so this happens more than once in the book.
That is a minor thing though, especially when you consider that Brownworth has a very readable voice. The Normans conveys a lot of information but it always feels like it is telling you a stirring adventure – not lecturing you. Too many history books are dry and boring. This one feels very vibrant and exciting. It is an informative, excellent read and I recommend checking it out.