Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Hammer and the Cross (Hammer and the Cross, #1)” as Want to Read:
The Hammer and the Cross (Hammer and the Cross, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Hammer and the Cross (Hammer and the Cross #1)

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  965 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
865 A.D. Warring kings rule over the British Isles, but the Church rules over the kings, threatening all who oppose them with damnation. Only the dreaded Vikings of Scandinavia do not fear the priests.

Shef, the bastard son of a Norse raider and a captive English lady, is torn by divided loyalties and driven by strange visions that seem to come from Odin himself. A smith an
Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 15th 1994 by Tor Books (first published January 1st 1993)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Hammer and the Cross, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Hammer and the Cross

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 07, 2009 Colin rated it it was amazing
I began re-reading Harry Harrison't "The Hammer and the Cross" trilogy in November 2009 as inspiration for NaNoWriMo. It is set in an alternate-history England at the time of the invasion of the Viking "Great Army" in 865 C.E. The story is about a young man named Shef who ends up joining the Vikings and becoming a carl and then a jarl among the Vikings, defeating villains among their people, the English, and even Frankish knights sent to recover the country for Christendom. There are significan ...more
Donna Brown
May 22, 2014 Donna Brown rated it liked it
Frankly, this book was a big disappointment, partially because I hadn't realized it was an "alternate" history. Things seemed to be getting pretty afield from what I had remembered of Viking history, so I looked at reviews of the book and found that, indeed, it fell more into the fantasy genre than the historical.

when I was in my teen or 20s, I would probably have loved this but just don't feel like I have the time for fantasy now. One place where it didn't fail me was in the description of the
Chris Branch
Feb 09, 2013 Chris Branch rated it really liked it
One of the most intriguing examples I've read of the classic story in which the lowly protagonist survives against all odds and rises to the pinnacle of power by use of his wits and his unique talents. It draws upon the real history of the Viking expansion into the British isles, and where it may depart from historical accuracy, it nevertheless rings true, with a depth that suggests meticulous research.

This is a raw and gritty saga, heavy on the pillaging, killing and torture that took place du
Jason R Richter
May 10, 2010 Jason R Richter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Probably one of my top five all time favorites. I read it again and again and every time I think, "I should have been a blacksmith."
Finalmente ho trovato un buchino per poter scrivere questa recensione...puff puff...che fatica questo periodo! Primavera sempre che vado in letargo rispetto al resto del mondo, che, al contrario, invece si sveglia pimpante e fresco, mentre io ho impiegato tutto l'inverno ad affaticarmi per non morire di freddo....e qui sorge la prima domanda sul libro: ma Shef con tutto quel freddo che c'è al Nord, come faceva???? Questi misteri resteranno irrisolti per la sottoscritta.
Ma torniamo a n
Aug 14, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
I just re-read this book. I enjoyed it overall. I tend to like almost anything involving the vikings, norse, mythology, the dark ages, heroic this book is right up my alley.

I did enjoy it. However, the anti-christian bias was too much. Were there nasty and vile priests in the dark ages? Yes, obvioulsy. Were there unscrupulous Christians in the dark ages? Yes. But the book seems to present Christianity as all bad.

The story does seem rather generic with the norse backdrop. Slave mov
Sep 03, 2013 Mindy rated it it was amazing
This whole trilogy is excellent. I have reread so many times the book fell apart. Definitely one of the best alternate histories I've ever read. I don't agree with some of the reviewers: I don't believe you need a wonderful knowledge of history to enjoy it (because I didn't; I recognized the Battle of Hastings & was tickled and that was it), just enough to know that this is an alternate version. I also don't believe this is a "book for men". Wth. No such thing. It's adventure, and not quite ...more
Christine Bowles
This was an interesting book to read and I do look forward to picking up the next two in the series. However, I must confess that I do not know mch about the real history told hete, so I was unable to pick up the differences, but this is a history that I will be looking more into now that it has been brought to my attention. Harrison is a great writer, I enjoyed his style and storytelling skills. I forsee many more of his books in my future.
Sabrina Spiher
Aug 02, 2007 Sabrina Spiher rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: boys.
"This is a book for men.

I'm not much of a feminist critic, and I'm not going to accuse Harry Harrison of misogyny. In fact, I might be betraying myself as a gender essentialist. But whatever. This is a book for men ..."

Read the rest of my review here:

Mar 01, 2014 Bradley rated it liked it
A very compelling and entertaining story. I nearly kept this book in my permanent collection so it is a very good read. I am going to send this to someone on listia as a bonus surprise book. This book is too good not to share. =)
Christian Schwoerke
Aug 05, 2016 Christian Schwoerke rated it liked it
Harry Harrison’s Hammer and Cross trilogy is a rollicking adventure story, but underlying its tale is a profound consideration of intellectual and social stagnancy of medieval Europe in the 9th century and consideration of its cause, the pervasive influence of Christianity and the Catholic Church. What if the re-birth of thought and invention could be kick-started 400 years earlier than the renaissance of the late 14th century? What might be the circumstances that would enable a man to set in mo ...more
John B.
Dec 24, 2015 John B. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This time, Harry was anxious for the vision he knew would come. His mind buzzed with doubts, with possibilities. Yet he had no certainty. Something must come, he knew, from outside to help him. It came usually when he was exhausted, or sleeping off a heavy meal. That day he deliberately took a longer walk through the woods surrounding his estate. In the evening he stuffed himself slowly at the dinner table. He stretched out to sleep, fearful that his mysterious adviser would fail him.

It was a dr
Nov 07, 2016 Linda rated it liked it
The promises made at the first of the book are not really kept in the rest. It begins with the death of Ragnar Lothbrok, a famous, and perhaps even real, Viking in the asp pit of a Northumbrian king. As he dies, he says something in Norse, knowing it will be passed on eventually: "Gnythja mundu grisir ef galtar hag vissi" - "If they knew how the old boar died, how the little piglets would grunt."

His little piglets, his four sons, do grunt and join together in a pact to revenge his death. So far,
Aug 27, 2012 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, fantasy
I had a hard time choosing between 3 & 4 stars. I went ahead & settled on 3 because I think it's a good book & well written, just not my favorite. I probably would have liked it a lot more if I knew English & Viking history as well as having knowledge of Norse mythology. Another problem was I didn't really know where the character was going..what his goals were, what was driving him...for most of the book.

This is an alternate-history store where the Vikings & their gods are
Jan 11, 2016 Emesskay rated it did not like it
I loved Harry Harrison's "Stainless Steel Rat" series so I thought I would give this series a go. Well, can't say that was the best decision I ever made. For about the first third of the book I disliked it. The second third my opinion changed to neutrality, and by the last third I would say I finally found it interesting and less of a pain to read. You may be asking why did I keep reading if I didn't like it, and that is because I wanted to know what happened. Even when I don't particularly like ...more
Al "Tank"
Sep 18, 2015 Al "Tank" rated it really liked it
Take a trip back to the early Middle Ages when Viking raiders broke out of the North and were preying on England, Ireland, and the rest of Europe. The Christian Church (Catholic) was in its zenith of power and depravity, happily torturing "non believers" and holding power over kings and princes.

Into this mix, an English slave, Shef, breaks out of his retched existence and becomes a pivotal figure in a war between Vikings, the Church, the English, and other Vikings. Ragnar Lothbrok (a real person
Michael Hall
Apr 12, 2012 Michael Hall rated it really liked it
An excellent alternate history tale in which the Vikings are the heroes that free Europe from the tyranny of the Church. Yeah, it's not truly historically accurate in many places, but that's why it's fiction! This story is great! I would much rather something like this to have happened in place of the Dark Ages. The religious speculation aside, this is a tale of a common born child who grows up to become a great leader of his time using knowledge, innovation, and force of personality to counter ...more
Simon Cook
Aug 03, 2014 Simon Cook rated it it was amazing
Really cool. First of a trilogy, all worth reading. (This is set in England at the time of the Viking invasions; the second in Norway; the third in the Mediterranean - engaging with Arab, Jewish and Byzantium societies). The trilogy is a kind of alternative historical fiction, by which I mean it is a history that never happens: a tale of the emergence of the One King of the North, told of in song and legend (and related to King Sheave or Scyld-Scefing in Beowulf).The author is usually put down s ...more
Jun 28, 2009 Jason added it
I read everything by Harry Harrison. I've even met the man, for crying out loud. But to a non-fan, every one of his alternate history trilogies follows the same path--low-born hero finds reputation through innovation and logic in the face of dogmatic illogic. So if you've read one and expect something different, keep walking. This trilogy deals with Christianity and the method with which it enslaved the western world. Heard enough? The heroes in this case are Vikings, who become more powerful th ...more
Oct 12, 2014 Bobscopatz rated it really liked it
This is a team-written book with Harry Harrison as the senior partner. I am largely ignorant of the history of the period relevant to this alternative history novel, so I can't really comment on how well they managed to blend real and made up events. I think the characters are well drawn, and I like how this book incorporates believable technology (as opposed to, say, giving machine guns to bronze-age warriors). The writing is crisp. Fans of Harry Harrison will recognize his solid, readable styl ...more
Sean Randall
Oct 20, 2010 Sean Randall rated it really liked it
Given that I like a great deal of Harry Harrison's work, i'm surprised that I haven't yet read any of his alternative history novels. hadn't, I should say, as I now clearly have.

I utterly enjoyed this one, I'll admit. history not being my strong point I'm sure there are many nuances I'll have missed, but even without a grounding in the era it's a fantastic story and an intellectually intriguing experience. The combat was well described, the Vikings richly detailed and the linguistics were just i
Jan 09, 2013 Grianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Voglio premettere che ho comprato questo libro (anzi tutta la trilogia) soltanto perchè era compresa in un pacchetto con altri libri che mi interessavano su e-bay...e devo dire che è stata davvero una piacevole sorpresa. Una tipologia di racconto molto classica, ma resa in modo particolare...soprattutto il protagonista trovo sia un gran bel personaggio, molto umano, molto reale ma contemporaneamente con qualcosa del dio.
Uno stile di scrittura anch'esso particolare, i dettagli di scontri, battag
Sherrill Watson
Jul 05, 2015 Sherrill Watson rated it liked it
Mr. Harrison has certainly done a lot of research!

This is a "war" between workers and Christianity, with the Hammer winning -- unless you count the last couple of chapters. Little Shef (Sheaf) endures fantastic adventures and has "visions" which give him ways and means to "invent" "machines" to defeat the English on their own land. I couldn't envision the war "machines" even with the illustrations. And where were the women? ALL cooking and cleaning and having children? Were ALL the Vikings batt
Jan 24, 2010 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: norse
This is the first volume of one of my all time favorite trilogies. I have owned multiple copies and have read them 3 times over the last two decades.

I'd recommend reading a Norse mythology book before starting this (for those who are not already familiar with it), so the attributes of the various Norse gods mentioned in the series will be understood. Shef is one of the strongest and most intelligent protagonists of any series I've ever read. Also worth mentioning, this series is definitely not f
Jason Kobrin
Mar 26, 2014 Jason Kobrin rated it did not like it
I couldn't get more than 200 pages in this. The dialogue is just so unbelievably terrible. I'm no historian, but I've got to think that feet, inches, and pounds were not the method of measuring things at that time period. The book had a solid story line, except for the rapid transformation of Shef from somewhat slave to ultimate warrior and supreme military mind. This book was highly recommended to me, but what a disappointment.
Jan 25, 2017 Ronny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a bit uneven, the alternative history starting to unfold in Viking age England is interesting, though the implementation of some of the protagonists newfangled ideas seem a bit easy, even with the "knowledge over all things" philosophy of the Way.
Parts of it flow nicely (especially some of the dialogue), while some of the descriptions around it seem a bit more stiltet, though that might be an attempt to write a bit like the old Viking stories of Snorre Sturlason etc
Annabelle Davis
Dec 20, 2014 Annabelle Davis rated it liked it
This book was certainly not an easy read. I found the character development slow and confusing. I was a big fan of Harry Harrison's other books which is why I decided to read this one. Not the sort of riveting read I was expecting. It was an ok read and had just enough to keep me reading it on my daily commute.
Aug 29, 2013 Terri rated it really liked it
This is a really good book in a good series. It's an alternate universe historical fiction book with elements of mythology and early engineering feats. There are some rather graphic violent scenes, but they aren't gratuitous.

Every few years when I'm between books or coming off another series, I will return to this and each time I've read the series I've gotten more out of it.
BookOwl BookOwl
Aug 02, 2014 BookOwl BookOwl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: unforgettable
This is the first novel I ever read. I received it at a reading competition when I was 10 & still have it up to this day. I've read it more than anything else.
I absolutely love it. The historical factor drew me in right away and I couldn't stay away.
It's beautifully written and the characters are amazing.
Harry Harrison, hats-off-to you sir.
Oct 01, 2008 Tristancsmith rated it really liked it
VERY enjoyable trilogy. Alternate history where the Norse culture has a fighting chance against Christianity thanks to a medieval genius using the powers of rationality. Well written, and I especially loved the characters. It makes you remember that people who lived in the past were still the same kinds of people that you know now.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Agent of Byzantium
  • Footrot Flats 1 (Footrot Flats, #1)
  • Here Comes Garfield
  • The Complete Peanuts, 1963-1966
  • The Mammoth Book of New Comic Fantasy
  • Brisingamen
  • Pasquale's Angel
  • The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories
  • 1812: The Rivers of War (Trail of Glory, #1)
  • The Boys Book
  • The Way It Wasn't: Great Science Fiction Stories of Alternate History
  • The Wild Machines (Book of Ash, #3)
  • For Want of a Nail: If Burgoyne had won at Saratoga
  • Far Horizons: All New Tales from the Greatest Worlds of Science Fiction
  • Steven Moffat's Doctor Who 2010: The Critical Fan's Guide to Matt Smith's First Series (Unauthorized)
  • The Masters of Solitude (Masters of Solitude, #1)
  • Alternate Empires (What Might Have Been, #1)
  • Hannibal's Children
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey) was an American science fiction author best known for his character the The Stainless Steel Rat and the novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966), the basis for the film Soylent Green (1973). He was also (with Brian W. Aldiss) co-president of the Birmingham Science Fiction G
More about Harry Harrison...

Other Books in the Series

Hammer and the Cross (3 books)
  • One King's Way (Hammer and the Cross, #2)
  • King and Emperor (Hammer and the Cross, #3)

Share This Book