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This remarkable in-depth exploration of the history of 78 small chess pieces is a lot more than an archaeological history. It manages to weave the history of the late Viking age into art history, the history of chess, the history of the medieval church, the history of commerce in Europe, the history of literature, and the history of archaeological debate. Nancy Marie Brown expertly weaves these diverse topics together by following the pieces on the chess board, using the art and military history of the age to determine the date of the relevant pieces, and in turn connecting that to their creation. The insight into Icelandic history and literature, which is often overlooked in past academic works on the Chessmen, provides a unique insight into the way, for example, a rook would be fashioned after a berserker or a bishop would have powerful range of movement and be at the king's side. These are all tied into Icelandic experience and history so that, Brown argues, it proves the pieces were made in Iceland by Margaret the Adroit. Brown's book is a history, but it is written using some journalistic techniques as well, she having interviewed some of the main characters who have brought this Icelandic theory to the fore in the previous decade. The argument for Icelandic origin is compelling, logical, and well laid out. The history is interesting, engaging, and presented in an accessible way. Overall, a really well-written look into a unique piece of historical detective work and well worth the read.
I got the Audible version of this book, and the narration was clear and easy to follow, though the narrator takes slightly dramatic pauses before a quotation. I could listen to it easily, but he wasn't my favourite reader, seeming to be a bit over the top. The book's complex Icelandic history and jumps between Nordic lineages would probably be better suited to a physical book, just so you can go back and make sure you know who is actually being talked about, but if you can listen without distractions and have an interest in the subject matter, you'll be able to follow along just fine.
Good information, however, I sadly found this book to be quite tedious to listen to.