“Epic Continent” by Nicholas Jubber

Thanks to John Murray Press and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This is a pretty cool idea for a book. The author goes on a personal odyssey, visiting the locations from some of the great European ‘epics’ – myths, legends, literature and folklore, whilst exploring his own life and the impact these tales still have on cultures and people today. What an awesome premise for a book.

The epics included are:

The Odyssey
The Kosovo Cycle
The Song of Roland
The Nibelungenlied,
Beowulf
Njal’s Saga

I was familiar with The Odyssey (obvs), The Nibelungenlied and Beowulf but had only heard of the others in passing, so it was really interesting to learn more about these and the countries in which they are set.

I found the author’s writing style to be engaging and evocative and his background as a travel writer was clear. As well as being an engrossing travelogue, the book also felt deeply personal. Make no mistake though, there are no luxury hotels or glamping experiences here.

As the author criss crosses across Europe, he is reflects on his own life whilst also experiencing the modern issues of the countries he visits and how these parallel the epic stories they birthed. This was more successful in some cases than others, and the links to modern events were not always coherent or clear. I also thought it would have been beneficial to have a short summary of each of the featured epics at the beginning of each section, particularly as I was not familiar with them all.

The book has been comprehensively researched, and the provision of Further Reading and Bibliography sections are useful for signposting readers to find out more about the featured epics.

Overall, a pleasure to read and I finished this book feeling more than slightly jealous of the author despite some of the hairier situations he experienced on his journey around the eponymous ‘Epic Continent’.

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