Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star Edited by Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad and Joshua Gillingham

Cover Illustraton: Lada Shustova & Figue
Cover Design:
 Jeremy D. Mohler
Interior Design: Mikael Brodu
Formats Available: Trade Paperback · PDF/Epub/Mobi

In our increasingly polarized world there is an urgent need for cross-cultural conversations, bridges of understanding between people of different beliefs, and a recommitment to a common understanding of our shared history: the history not of any one particular group but of humanity itself. Althingi: The Crescent and the Northern Star, co-edited by Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad (A Mosque Among the Stars, Islamicates) and Joshua Gillingham (The Gatewatch, Old Norse for Modern Times), is an anthology of historical fiction which explores the intricate and often-overlooked interactions between intrepid Viking voyagers and inquisitive emissaries from the powerful Islamic kingdoms. Featuring stories by an incredible slate of authors writing in the historical Althingi universe, Althingi: The Crescent and the Northern Star offers a glimpse into a fascinating forgotten past and will prove a must-read for fans of both Viking and Islamic history.

My Review

Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star is an anthology of fourteen historical fiction stories, each with a different author and tone, published by Outland Entertainment. The Norse and Islamic people interacted frequently during trade runs back in the time of the Vikings – a fact which makes perfect sense with all the sea-faring travel, but which I had never had cause to consider. The two cultures shared a very similar prophecy for the end of the world, with giants playing a large part in both. These stories explore the shared history of these people living in very different climates and their conversations and reactions to one another’s cultural customs, political traditions and religions.

The Althingi was an annual meeting of the leaders of the Viking Norsemen which took place at Thingvellir in Iceland. At this time all disputes were raised in the presence of the leaders and settlement was attempted.

Thingvellir, Iceland – where the Althingi took place each year.

The stories in this collection are full of historical detail and mythological lore. The tone of voice and subject matter covered is quite different from one story to the next but they are all richly descriptive and engaging. It is clear that each of the authors has spent time researching the time period, customs and lore and are able to bring it all to life here.

In one story Loki the god of chaos makes a shocking appearance, as do fiendish spirits of the dead, frost giants, Beserkers, seers, witches, and there are mentions of the goddess of the ocean, Rán and Fenrir the wolf.

Gyda the Grim

My favourite stories were those by Linnea Hartsuyker, Sami Shah, Genevieve Gornichec, Giti Chandra, Kaitlin Felix and Eric Schumacher.

In Hartsuyker’s story we find great characterisation for such a short story. Vidar the Norseman is depicted as trustworthy and moral. Rashid is a caring father and loveable boss. We are also shown the world of Berserkers, taking herbs to bring on a violent blood rage.

Sami Shah’s prose was wonderfully descriptive:

“I looked over and saw Bjorn’s face was split by a grin. It looked like a glacier had broken in two.”

“I feared my teeth would shatter and my eyes would freeze in their sockets.”

Gornichec imbues her tale with a fantastic tongue in cheek sense of humour and a strong, feisty female character, Thurid, who is consistently exasperated by her husband’s exploits.

I can’t wait for the upcoming novel from Felix with the same heroine, Gyda the Grim, as her fabulous story set on the sea in this anthology.

Hakon the Fat

In Dragoslava Dreadkeel, an adventurous Serbian princess, bests a murderous Viking and finds herself joining a crew of Norsemen returning to Iceland for the Althingi. The feisty ‘action hero’ type character of Dragoslava was wonderful and I would love to read a full novel with her as it’s main character.

Schumacher’s tale brings the action and adventure, along with the formidable, oversized character of Hakon the Fat.

Indeed, all of the stories had something special and were thoroughly detailed and enjoyable.

The authors (with links to their goodreads pages where applicable) whose works are featured in this anthology are:

Speaking with Giants by Linnea Hartsuyker
The Blasphemy of the Gods by Sami Shah
The Short Tale of Thurid the Exasperated by Genevieve Gornichec
Torunn Unhoused by Emily Osborne
What a Miserable Drink, and What a Terrible Place by Alex Kreis
The Saga of Aud the Seeress by Siobhán Clark
Dragoslava Dreadkeel by Giti Chandra
The Gold of Iskander by Nicholas Kotar
Wave Runners by Kaitlin Felix
Exiles by Shanon Sinn
A Clash in Kaupang by Eric Schumacher
Sif the Fair by Jordan Stratford
Sky of Bronze by R.F. Dunham
So do I write and color the runes by Bjarne Benjaminsen

An excerpt can be read here:

About the Editors

Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad

Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad is the Principal Research Scientist at KenSci Inc. and Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at University of Washington Tacoma. His previous academic appointments were at the Department of Computer Science at University of Minnesota, Center for Cognitive Science at University of Minnesota, Faculty of Engineering at Istinye University and the Indian Institute of Technology – Kanpur.

Joshua Gillingham

Joshua Gillingham is a Canadian author from the scenic city of Nanaimo, BC. There he enjoys life with his adventurous spouse and their two very unadventurous cats. The Gatewatch, his debut novel, was born of his unremitted fascination with Norse Myths and Icelandic Sagas. Joshua’s lyrical maritime ballad The Queen of the Rose Marie was selected for the Short Story Dispenser Project hosted by Short Édition and his award-winning essay ‘Becoming a Resilient Writer‘ has been featured on several sites for aspiring writers.

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