The Shield Ring

by Rosemary Sutcliff
234 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Jenny

An imaginative reconstruction of the Viking defence against the Normans in Cumbria.


The Domesday Book, the Norman survey of England, stops curiously short of the Lake District of Cumbria. Through the eyes of the Viking settlers of the Lake District, this is the story of the Shield Ring they made for themselves out of the barrier fells against the inroads of the Norman kings.


In general, morality is not an issue. While there are breaches of morality (see Violence), the line between good and evil conduct is maintained clearly.

Spiritual Content

The Vikings largely hold to the old Norse gods, though they mingle Christianity with it a little. One woman is said to possess the power of the Second Sight.


This story, based on the desperate struggle of the Vikings to keep their territory from Norman hands, is heavily violent. Men are killed in battle, men are tortured, and, as an aside, two boys have a fight. Typical of Sutcliff’s style, the violence is vivid without being overly graphic.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Alcoholic drinks are consumed, and drunkenness is mentioned, though not among the main characters.

Sexual Content


Crude or Profane Language or Content

A character swears by “the White Kristni,” referring to Christ.


The people of this story, though they cannot be found in history books, can be found in the local tradition of the area around the Lake District, and the hero’s cairn of Aikin’s How can still be seen on the fells overlooking the territory. Miss Sutcliff’s skill deftly brings these legendary names to life in perfect accordance with the background of the time period. The tapestry she makes of the time, the events, the people, and especially the connection between a character’s fate and that of the legendary figure of Beowulf, is exceptionally done. Full of emotion and charisma, this story is unforgettable.

Note: This is the last book in the unnamed series following the emerald dolphin ring. The first of these books is The Eagle of the Ninth.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 13+

Review Rating:

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