The Viking Dead (Tomes Of The Dead) by Toby Venables (book review).

Vikings and zombies. What a combination. Talk about themes which are very current. Vikings are an eternal favourite and zombies are everywhere in the media at least.


Bjólf is the leader of the crew of the Hrafn long-ship. Pursued by Skalla and his numerically superior force, Bjólf seeks shelter in a dark and lonely coastline. While hiding, his crew are set upon by evil undead warriors who feel no pain and know no fear. Caught between two enemies and surrounded by certain death, the crew seeks shelter in a fenced compound. This compound is led by Halldís, the daughter of the missing village chief. She and her people have long survived the Draugr onslaught but are on the edge of despair.

Bjólf and the remains of his crew seek to escape but events and fate send them back to Halldís and her people. They must work together to find the source of the supernatural evil that walks around them and try to destroy it.

There is a very clever play on words at the heart of this book. The more I think about it. the better it becomes. To go Viking originally meant to go wandering. So the original Vikings were just travelling farmers looking for somewhere to raise their sheep. It is not a huge stretch from the ‘Wandering Dead’ to ‘Walking Dead.’ This is too neat not to be deliberate.

‘The Viking Dead’ is a good adventure story. The characters are engaging and the story battles along. Toby Venables has written an impressive first story which bodes well for the quality of the ‘Tomes Of The Dead’ series, broadly centred around the zombie genre but differing interpretations of it. Any established and ubiquitous genre is crying out to be reinterpreted and re-examined. ‘The Viking Dead’ links Vikings that Time Team staple with the darling of modern TV, movies and video games, the zombie!

When zombies attack, the heroes quickly descend into a world of stabbing and blunt instruments to the head. The world of Vikings happily lends itself to slashing and bashing the undead firmly between the eyes.

By taking the beloved and anticipated zombie apocalypse and setting it in a nicely researched historical context Venables’ first novel is set to win a horde of new fans. This book is recommended to zombie fans and readers of action stories. There is even a nice SF twist to the plot which takes the reader slightly by surprise. Overall, this is a great first novel and an exciting read

Andy Bollan

July 2014

(pub: Abaddon Books. 351 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-907519-38-0)

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