River Kings: A Times Book of the Year 2021


River Kings: Follow an epic story of the Viking Age that traces the historical trail of an ancient piece of jewelry found in a Viking grave in England to its origins thousands of miles east in India.

An acclaimed bioarchaeologist, Catrine Jarman has used cutting-edge forensic techniques to spark her investigation into the history of the Vikings who came to rest in British soil. By examining teeth that are now over one thousand years old, she can determine childhood diet—and thereby where a person was likely born. With radiocarbon dating, she can ascertain a death-date down to the range of a few years. And her research offers enlightening new visions of the roles of women and children in Viking culture.

Three years ago, a Carnelian bead came into her temporary possession. River Kings sees her trace the path of this ancient piece of jewelry back to eighth-century Baghdad and India, discovering along the way that the Vikings’ route was far more varied than we might think—that with them came people from the Middle East, not just Scandinavia, and that the reason for this unexpected integration between the Eastern and Western worlds may well have been a slave trade running through the Silk Road, all the way to Britain.

Told as a riveting history of the Vikings and the methods we use to understand them, this is a major reassessment of the fierce, often-mythologized voyagers of the North—and of the global medieval world as we know it.

Editorial Review

Unearthing Ancient Mysteries: ‘River Kings’ Shines as a Literary Gem

In her captivating book, ‘River Kings: A Times Book of the Year 2021,’ author Cat Jarman delves into the realms of history, archaeology, and adventure, guiding readers on a thrilling journey through time. With meticulous research, vivid storytelling, and an infectious passion for her subject, Jarman brings to life the remarkable tale of the Vikings and their enigmatic burial sites.

From the outset, it is evident that Jarman possesses a deep reverence for her subject matter. Drawing upon her extensive experience as an archaeologist, she skillfully combines historical facts with her own personal discoveries, offering readers a unique perspective on the mysterious world of Viking burials. Her enthusiasm and love for the subject shine through each page, infusing the narrative with an infectious energy that propels readers forward.

One of the book’s most commendable qualities is its accessibility. While ‘River Kings’ is steeped in academic rigor, Jarman effortlessly distills complex concepts and terminology into digestible portions, making the book approachable to readers from all backgrounds. She takes care to explain archaeological techniques and theories without overwhelming the reader, allowing them to fully grasp the significance of the discoveries she unveils.

The strength of ‘River Kings’ lies not only in its meticulous research but also in the compelling characters that populate its pages. Jarman breathes life into long-deceased Vikings, skillfully weaving their stories into the larger narrative. By humanizing these ancient figures, she fosters a profound connection between the reader and the past, igniting a sense of empathy and intrigue that makes the book truly unforgettable.

Furthermore, the book is masterfully structured, seamlessly transitioning between the author’s personal experiences, historical accounts, and scientific analysis. The pacing is superb, maintaining a perfect balance between suspenseful discoveries and insightful reflections. Jarman’s storytelling prowess keeps readers engrossed, eagerly turning each page to uncover the secrets buried within Viking history.

While ‘River Kings’ primarily focuses on Viking burials, it offers readers much more than a mere exploration of ancient customs. It also tackles broader themes of human curiosity, the pursuit of knowledge, and the significance of preserving our cultural heritage. Through her immersive storytelling, Jarman ignites a sense of wonder and reverence for the past, encouraging readers to reflect on their own place in the grand tapestry of history.

In conclusion, ‘River Kings: A Times Book of the Year 2021’ is an enthralling masterpiece that seamlessly blends history, archaeology, and adventure. Cat Jarman’s passion and expertise shine through every page, captivating readers with her engaging storytelling and meticulous research. This book is a must-read for history enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and anyone eager to unearth the secrets of the past. Prepare to be transported to the captivating world of the Vikings and embark on an unforgettable journey through time.

River Kings: A Times Book of the Year 2021 by Cat Jarman
Genre: Non-Fiction
Age Range: Adult
Start Rating: 4.6 stars
Publication Date: 28th April 2023

Author: Cat Jarman

Cat Jarman

Cat Jarman

Cat Jarman is an accomplished archaeologist, author, and scholar who has dedicated her career to unraveling the mysteries of the past. With a particular focus on Viking history and burial sites, Jarman has become a leading authority in the field, renowned for her meticulous research and groundbreaking discoveries.

Driven by an insatiable curiosity, Jarman has excavated numerous Viking sites, unearthing artifacts and remains that provide invaluable insights into the lives and customs of these ancient seafarers. Her expertise in bioarchaeology, the study of human remains, has shed new light on topics such as diet, health, and social structures of Viking communities.

Beyond her contributions to academia, Jarman has also displayed a remarkable talent for communicating her findings to a broader audience. Through her engaging writing style and passion for storytelling, she bridges the gap between the academic and general readership, making complex historical concepts accessible and captivating.

Jarman’s book, ‘River Kings: A Times Book of the Year 2021,’ stands as a testament to her skills as both a researcher and author. In this critically acclaimed work, she expertly weaves together historical accounts, personal experiences, and scientific analysis to bring the enigmatic world of Viking burials to life. Her ability to humanize the past and draw readers into the stories of long-deceased individuals sets her apart as a gifted storyteller.

As a sought-after speaker and consultant, Jarman shares her knowledge and passion with audiences around the world. Her engaging presentations and expert commentary have made her a respected voice in the field of archaeology and a trusted authority on Viking history.

Cat Jarman’s unwavering dedication to her craft, her pioneering research, and her ability to captivate readers with her writing have solidified her reputation as a prominent figure in the world of archaeology. Her contributions to our understanding of the Viking era continue to shape our knowledge of this fascinating chapter in human history.


Source: (House, 2022)


  • Cat Jarman | University of Oslo – Academia.edu. (2021). Academia.edu. https://uio.academia.edu/CatJarman

  • House, S. (2022). River Kings: A New History of the Vikings — Talk with Dr. Cat Jarman [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwkgh7WLsOM

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