REVIEW: Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star (2022)

by Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad; Josh Gillingham

It seems to be somewhat forgotten in modern times, that The Islamic Caliphate and Viking traders were well known to each other, and largely had a good relationship. Perhaps the most well-known description of many lost Viking rituals and practices were the records of Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, who visited the land we now know as Russia and Ukraine to study the Volga Bulgars. His detailed account has to be read through skeptical lenses as he did not understand some of what he saw, but the records include many awesome things including an account of a ship burial (The film, The Thirteenth Warrior is very loosely based on this expedition).

Perhaps united by a distaste for Christians, or even simply opportunities for trades in luxury goods, the two groups were on fairly good terms aside from a few skirmishes and raids here or there. Outland Entertainment, a company that publishes quite a bit of quality Pagan and Viking related content, has sought to highlight this unique shared history between Vikings and Muslims with this historical fiction short story compilation, Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star, to be published in a few months time (early 2022).

“In our increasingly polarized world there is an urgent need for cross-cultural conversations, bridges of understanding between people of different beliefs, and a recommitment to a common understanding of our shared history: the history not of any one particular group but of humanity itself. Althingi: The Crescent and the Northern Star, co-edited by Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad (A Mosque Among the Stars, Islamicates) and Joshua Gillingham (The Gatewatch, Old Norse for Modern Times), is an anthology of historical fiction which explores the intricate and often-overlooked interactions between intrepid Viking voyagers and inquisitive emissaries from the powerful Islamic kingdoms. Featuring stories by an incredible slate of authors writing in the historical Althingi universe, Althingi: The Crescent and the Northern Star offers a glimpse into a fascinating forgotten past and will prove a must-read for fans of both Viking and Islamic history.”

I enjoyed all of the stories in this book, but I will say that the very first story in the book, Speaking with Giants by Linnea Hartsuyker, which told the story of the gentle Giant Vidar the Strong and his life in the service of a Baghdadi nobleman named Rashid and his daughter Fatima was probably my favorite. Rashid senses that the end times are near and is engrossed in the fact that the Norsemen concept of it shares more than a few similarities. Vidar speaks of a way to communicate with Odin himself, sparking the beginnings of an adventure of a lifetime. I would honestly read an entire book of this story and hope that they continue this “saga” if there are more chapters of this anthology.

There are fourteen total stories by a wide array of authors, all showcasing this common theme.

This was an interesting and somewhat surprising book to come across, and I applaud the editors for taking on such an interesting project. The world is always full of such religious strife that one can easily forget that there was a time when strange collaborations frequently happened. I see that Althingi (term for a governing body in Old Norse times) is a brand Outland Entertainment is building and includes a book and a card game, it will be interesting to see where this goes moving forward! The reason this book has anything to do with that is that a number of the stories involve characters heading to Iceland to witness, take part in, or share grievances in the Althingi. If you are a historical fiction lover, a fan of Viking history, a Heathen, and possibly even a Muslim, I’d recommend checking this out. Keep an open mind, and I believe you will love it!

For more information on this book, click HERE

For a look at another one of their books, click HERE and HERE

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