River Kings touches on a few topics surrounding the Vikings that I haven’t read much about elsewhere: their role in creating and maintaining the slave trade, for one, and then a brief (but fascinating to me) reference to using bioarchaology to understand the spread of disease, including a theory that the Vikings helped to spread leprosy and smallpox. I’d love to read more about that (in pretty much any period, to be honest).
The format of the book is fairly simple: Jarman chooses an item from a dig in Britain, at Repton, and follows its path to where it may have originated. How did a carnelian bead make its way from the east to Britain? The story allows her to touch on a lot of topics along the way: first the Vikings’ presence in Britain, and then their raiding and trading in general, and then further back along the bead’s journey. She explores the customs and capabilities of the Rus (Vikings by another name), and their role in affairs in Constantinople and beyond.
It’s a pretty effective structure to explore a bit more about what the Vikings did and why. It doesn’t cover all possible topics, but nor does it limit itself too much. I found it pretty enjoyable.