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Summary

Max Adams explores Britain's lost early medieval past by walking its paths and exploring its lasting imprint on valley, hill and field.

From York to Whitby, from London to Sutton Hoo, from Edinburgh to Anglesey and from Hadrian's Wall to Loch Tay, each of his ten walk narratives forms a portrait of a Britain of fort and fyrd, crypt and crannog, church and causeway, holy well and memorial stone.

©2015 Max Adams (P)2016 W F Howes Ltd

Critic reviews

"A triumph. The most gripping portrait of 7th-Century Britain that I have read.... A Game of Thrones in the Dark Ages." (The Times on The King in the North)
"An engagingly populist and evocative book that makes a bold and effective attempt to bring a particularly obscure period in northern British history to the general reader." (Literary Review on The King in the North)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jim
  • London
  • 14-03-16

A brilliant picture of dark age Britain & Ireland

I wasn't sure, based on the description what to expect from "The Land of Giants". The thought of a travel book with bits of history thrown in wasn't that appealing and the praise for the author's lyrical writing had me worried that it was going to be a bit like Jan Morris' Venice; enormous unpunctuated sentences and little discernible structure. I needn't have worried; this is a completely brilliant listen.

Max Adams is a practicing archeologist with a deep understanding of the obscure period between the end of the Roman occupation of Britain and the re-emergence of written records under the Saxons known as the Dark Ages. In order to describe what's known about that period (about 400 to 600 A.D.) he takes a number of tours around Britain and Ireland using two forms of transport that were available to our dark age ancestors; walking and sailing. He describes in enchanting detail a rich landscape of lost kingdoms, hilltop fortresses, fenland walkways, busy river routes and seagoing trade.

This approach is possible because the physical record; in the shape of castles, churches, grave sites and place names is still accessible despite an absence of written material from the time. In other hands this could have been dull but Adams uses his mastery of the subject matter to describe not only what we might see if we went back in time but also what's known about the tumultuous period of plagues; war; migration and religous conversion from which Offa's dyke, the legend of Arthur and current conceptions of Britain and Ireland started to emerge.

Five stars, straight back on for a second listen

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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A walking tour not a history book

Any additional comments?

As someone who is interested in learning more about the Dark Ages I purchased this book. I appreciate that the dark ages is so called for a reason but unfortunately this gave practically no insight into the history of the time. Instead it was more of a book about a walking tour around the UK with some good descriptions of scenery and characters but really nothing more than that

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful narrative, terrible performance

The joy of this book is that Max Adams takes you with him on his walks through history, the quality of the description is so good you feel you're there. The experience is of a long walk with a fascinating and learned companion who makes you imagine the Dark Age world in human terms. At a certain point, however, I gave up and bought the book, the narration is not good, droning, somehow faintly mocking of the writer's enthusiasm and NO idea of the correct pronunciation of a lot of the place names.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating listen

Occasionally pedantic, but hugely interesting and well worth sticking with. A wealth of information and lots of personal touches, with an odyssey to keep the story moving.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 17-05-18

Engaging dip into English dark ages

Excellent book that avoids the pitfalls of dullness and cloying folksiness that for me made "Old Ways" almost unbearable.

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  • Mr
  • 25-05-17

A perambulation through the UKs history

Loved this book, a great tour of the UK and islands, on boot, boat, and bike. Some great sites combined with stories, and nice to hear some archaeologists I know pop up in the narrative. Lovely work

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Charming travels round Britain

This is a really nice book if you want to be taken away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The author walks here and there around the country noting place names and landscape features and quietly explaing their historical and archaeological significance. Written and read in a chatty personal style this book is the perfect way to unwind.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful