Lars Brownworth’s first book catapulted to success on the back of a related podcast, and he used the same formula this time. The Norman Centuries has been another good history podcast from him (though very slow, fourteen episodes in four years, and a note saying the next episode is under production is still the most recent note a year later), and his latest book is more directly tied to it than the first time. With Byzantium he covered (in passing) most the entire history in the book, and picked the highlights for the podcast; with the Normans, it feels more like like each chapter is one of the podcast episodes.

The Normans only held sway in Europe for a couple of centuries, and Brownworth’s writing is stronger for having a more limited subject than the thousand-year life of the Eastern Roman Empire to talk about. As always, he does a great job with bringing history to life, and is at his best describing larger-than-life characters. The Normans provide plenty of larger-than-life people to write about.

My biggest complaint is that the book skips around more than I’d like in time. It starts with Normandy and the conquest of England, before stepping back to the early Norman conquests in southern Italy. The book then goes on to a brief history of the founding of the Crusader state of Antioch, and then spends the bulk of its time talking about the Kingdom of Sicily. The other complaint is that it’s all about the big-name leaders, and nothing outside of that. But, as a light popular history, that is what the book is about, and as I already said Brownworth handles them very well, and very enjoyably.