In the early 1800's, on a Hebridean beach in Scotland, the sea exposed an ancient treasure cache: 93 chessmen carved from walrus ivory. Norse netsuke, each face individual, each full of quirks, the Lewis Chessmen are probably the most famous chess pieces in the world. Harry played Wizard's Chess with them in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Housed at the British Museum, they are among its most visited and beloved objects. Questions abounded: Who carved them? Where? Ivory Vikings explores these mysteries by connecting medieval Icelandic sagas with modern archaeology, art history, forensics, and the history of board games. In the process, Ivory Vikings presents a vivid history of the 400 years when the Vikings ruled the North Atlantic, and the sea-road connected countries and islands we think of as far apart and culturally distinct: Norway and Scotland, Ireland and Iceland, and Greenland and North America. The story of the Lewis chessmen explains the economic lure behind the Viking voyages to the west in the 800s and 900s. And finally, it brings from the shadows an extraordinarily talented woman artist of the twelfth century: Margret the Adroit of Iceland. NANCY MARIE BROWN is the author of highly praised books of nonfiction, including Song of the Vikings. She is fluent in Icelandic, and spends her summers in Iceland. She has deep ties to the Scandinavian cultural institutions in the U.S. Brown lives in East Burke,VT.
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"The Scandinavian vocabulary in this work might have intimidated many narrators, but Tony Ward appears to have been capably coached in its pronunciation. Still, Ward's narration is mostly workmanlike, adding little energy to this challenging text about the iconic Lewis Chessmen, carved from walrus ivory in the Middle Ages and discovered in 1831. The problem here is not a lack of research, or any shortcomings in the prose. On the contrary, Brown's knowledge of the Viking era is clearly extensive, and she writes with clarity and wit. However, the sagas and other historical sources ultimately tell us little about the chess pieces themselves and even less about the "woman who made them," and the promise of the subtitle is never really fulfilled. D.B. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine"
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