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Who's Afraid Of Beowulf?

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,558 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Mightier Than the Sword: "My Hero", "Who's Afraid of Beowulf?" This title contains two comic fantasies: 'My Hero' and 'Who's Afraid of Beowulf'. Full description
Paperback, 216 pages
Published July 25th 1991 by Orbit (first published 1988)
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G R Matthews
This is a good story told with a literal sense of humour - it made me smile.

Viking's wake after 1,200 years to fight their immortal enemy... that's the story in a nutshell, but that shell covers over the struggle (more an adjustment) to modern life, which turns out not to be too different to Viking life, the search for their enemy and the eventual showdown.

The characters are well drawn and prose focuses heavily on the humour... which is what I'd expected and looked forward to.

It was all a bit li
So, Norse literature is my thing. Really, really my thing. But while there were parts of this book where I was slightly annoyed by inaccuracies (kite shields? in the eighth century? I think not), the Anglicisation of names (eths are my favourite letters :3 ), and the text's attitude to textual criticism (the whole idea of 'authorship' of a saga kind of pains me), it was so much fun that actually I didn't care that much.

It was pretty clear that the author really did know his stuff - all those all
Sep 16, 2011 Stamatios rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Having read this book based on its ravenous reviews, I feel cheated and slightly suspicious about the general population's sense of humour. Tom Holt has been compared to Terry Pratchett, but his fantasy creatures set on a contemporary setting could not be any less funny than Pratchett's. The awoken Vikings that rise from their tomb in modern-day Scotland to fight and defeat their nemesis once and for all speak perfect English (courtesy of a spell), catch up on the last 1500 years of history afte ...more
Nov 06, 2012 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this on Dan's recommendation but my husband says he's read it at least twice. I enjoyed the way King Hrolf picked up the modern situation and technologies so that there was a minimum of having to introduce the theory and result of various inventions and the acceptance by the heroes of whatever decisions the king made meant that they just followed along without explanations too. The introduction of most of the board and card games we play as if they were all one game was good and I liked the ...more
Jan 01, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A present day Archeologist discovers, underground, a ship of Norse Vikings – intact, fully preserved. If you like mythology, Scotland and laughter, check out what happens when a ship of Vikings awakes in present day… to save the world from a Computer Magnate who happens to be a sorcerer who has been living in England for several hundred years. It seems a thousand years ago King Rolf Earthstar of Caithness, and his bickering band of Viking bro’s fought a dreadful battle with the evil Sorcerer Kin ...more
Jun 10, 2016 L. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Archaeologist Hildy Frederiksen has always wanted to make a major discovery and an intact Viking ship burial certainly fits the bill. She most definitely does *not* expect the dead Vikings to come back to life and is understandably rattled when they do. It seems a thousand years ago King Rolf Earthstar of Caithness, ('God forsaken place but it is my Kingdom') and his band of heroes fought a dreadful battle with the evil Sorceror King, won the battle but lost track of their enemy and so found it ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Nighteye rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I know far too much about history for me liking this a little... stoped reading it, to bad presentation of the Norse. It have its funny parts but not that many either. Have been my sitting-on-the-buss-but-too-tired-to-read-anything-with-story-to-focus-on-book.
Jun 16, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A newly discovered archaeological site impedes development of a pipeline, and all hell breaks loose in Scotland and England. Or is it the other way round? An evil wizard plots world domination from his computer company's London office tower. The archaeological site contains a Viking longship complete with a crew of sleeping heroes in advertently awoken by an American archaeologist. Will they stop the evil wizard in time or go to Valhalla trying? Will they grant an interview to a roving BBC repor ...more
Hannah Snell
Apr 27, 2015 Hannah Snell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were lots of things that I enjoyed about this book - the concept, the mythology, much of the humour. But this is not the laugh-out-loud humour of Terry Pratchett, or the sharp wit of Jasper Fforde, and, as a result (perhaps of taste?), let this down. Further let-downs were the 2D 'depth' of the characters and the thinness of the plot - it often felt that there were more details missing and it lacked the scope that it promised. However, this didn't prevent it from being an enjoying read, an ...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in October 2000.

The second of Tom Holt's comic fantasy novels, Who's Afraid of Beowulf? is rather a tentative affair by comparison with most of them. It gets its comedy from the same idea as Expecting Someone Taller (and many other humourous fantasy novels), as it concerns a group of characters from mythology bewildered by the modern world.

In this case, the bewildered mythological characters are heroes from the Norse sagas, sealed for hundreds of years in a s
Nathan Dehoff
This is the first book I've read by this author, but I find the descriptions of his work to be up my alley, so I doubt it will be the last. That said, while it was cute, it wasn't as funny as it could have been. I think a little more development could have helped, perhaps particularly in terms of the villain, but also as far as differentiating the different members of the Viking band. Still, there were enough good jokes and likeable enough characters to make it a worthwhile read. The plot involv ...more
Corinne Enright
I expected great things of this book. I love mythology, I adore comic fantasy, and I like Tom Holt. Plus, it's got a kicking title. In reality, it was a reasonably well-constructed book, well-written, and with a few really nice moments, but in terms of joke density, it was kind of a drag. It was less "comic fantasy" than "fantasy with some jokes." It wasn't time wasted by any means, but there are better books by this guy.
May 31, 2014 Jenni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is really more of a 3.5. While Who's still retains the warmth of Holt's earlier work (if I have a problem with some of his later books, it's how overly cynical they frequently are), it's less joyful than Expecting Someone Taller, and doesn't have as many laugh-out-loud moments as, for example, Flying Dutch. That said, there's still plenty to enjoy here.
Apr 28, 2009 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by John Kikkert. The back of the book suggests that it is combination of Lord of the Rings and Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. It reminds me of the humor of Patrick McMannus. A group of Vikings come back to life in Scotland 1200 years after being interred in their ship. A mad romp as they go about the countryside trying to find an evil spirit who has been foisted on the world. Tongue in check humor. Wonderful characters such as: Starkad Storvirkssson, Angantyr Asmundarson, ...more
Enjoyed this paperback I picked up at the Salvation Army. I enjoyed the book, particularly since I have been enjoying the series "Vikings" on television. This novel, of course, is a much lighter view of Viking fighting life.
Got to say I'm glad I read Holt's "Flying Dutch" before I read this one, or I might not have continued. I know a lot of people when they talk Tom Holt, they talk Beowulf. I just didn't see it. The story wasn't fully developed in any respect and the characters, well, I had a hard time telling the Vikings apart. Holt handles the fish-out-of-water story in Dutch a lot better than he does in Beowulf as well.

I recommend reading both books, however, especially if you're a writer -- look at how Holt ha
Jan 04, 2014 Kenny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was the other half of an omnibus and I struggled to get into this. The pacing was a bit off, there were sections of the plot that dragged (or were resolved in a paragraph) and some bits just felt a bit 'puff' writing. This was one of those books that I never managed to get into, instead finding other ways to avoid reading it for a while - so it was also a disjointed read for me. Some good one liners, and I did like the premise, but it just never gets out of second gear.

Oh, and the alien ch
Ben Welsh
A good book but lacking depth or complexity that I'd hoped for. will try more from the same author but other works I've read - "donut" - suggest the tone is likely to be a bit lighter than hoped for.
May 26, 2012 Christiane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, humor
This book and "Expecting Someone Taller" are my favorite Tom Holt books. Unassuming student archaeologist Hildy Frederiksen finds an intact Viking burial, complete with surprisingly alive Vikings. It turns out that the sorcerer enemy the Vikings fought many years ago is alive and well in modern-day Britain and the Vikings, with Hildy’s reluctant help, have to defeat him again. It is very, very funny watching the Vikings adapt to modern day customs; though I read this book many years ago I still ...more
Apr 08, 2015 Cassie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was okay. Nothing happened. I keep expecting more from the author. I did like one quote though:
"It's just that these days people hate leaving well alone. They can't bear anything to be noble and splendid any more."
Henrik Rostoft
A bit of a letdown, compared to his other novels.
Emily Von pfahl
Very funny in an off-beat way. It made me wish that it was the start of a series.
Jun 23, 2012 Zoe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Who's Afraid of Beowulf? is a lot of fun and quite entertaining, the plot is more than simplistic and the characters are rather 2-D. Yet the combination of simplistic plot and characters with a good writing style and well written humor puts this book on the map.
Although often compared to Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt would be better compared to Neil Gaiman, and, in fact, Who's Afraid of Beowulf fits right in with American Gods.
I highly recommend this novel, but as a light summer read, not as
May 03, 2015 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favorite so far!
May 17, 2008 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tom Holt writes funny books for smart people. He does expect you to know what he's making fun of, and he doesn't hold your hand and tell you why things are funny. If you aren't familiar with the original material he's satirizing, it's just not that funny. Like watching High Anxiety without being familiar with Hitchcock's work. This probably isn't as great as Expecting Someone Taller but it's still good stuff. If you haven't read anything by Tom Holt, do yourself a favor and try him out.
Ch J Loveall
Mar 25, 2014 Ch J Loveall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fine book from Mr Holt.
Nov 14, 2012 Marshall rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I think this book was an attempt at a British humor version of Lord of the Rings, based on Norse mythology. It was cute. The premise was pretty good, but it didn't hold my attention much after the first 25 pages. The narrative was a bit choppy, so it was hard to follow along. My favorite part was the two Chthonic spirits always up to some kind of mischief while playing a game called Goblin's Teeth, but these guys only showed up occasionally and briefly.
Dec 04, 2010 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was a fun little lark of a book. Archaeologist Hildy Frederickson discovers a Viking longship buried in a Scottish marsh. The site turns out to be the burial ground of a Viking king and twelve champion warriors. King Hrolf and his men aren't actually dead, they have been under a magical sleeping spell but are now awakened for one last battle against evil. With Hildy as their guide in this future world, the heroes go forth to fulfill their destiny.
Jul 15, 2014 Ronn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not bad. It's no 'Good Omens', but it held my interest.
Nov 19, 2013 Jrubino rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you looking for something light, shallow, nonsensical, and rather mediocre, then this novel should fit the bill.

From the opening chapter, the characters were scripted and lacking any realism. I mean, even the 1200-year-old Viking warriors speak modern English?

Sure, it might be explained by some magic or whatever, yet I don’t have the patience for such a short-cut style. It shows lack of imagination and respect.
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Tom Holt (Thomas Charles Louis Holt; born September 13, 1961) is a British novelist.
He was born in London, the son of novelist Hazel Holt, and was educated at Westminster School, Wadham College, Oxford, and The College of Law, London.
Holt's works include mythopoeic novels which parody or take as their theme various aspects of mythology, history or literature and develop them in new and often humor
More about Tom Holt...

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