Legend of the Last Vikings - Taklamakan

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Abela Publishing, Dec 15, 2006 - Fiction - 332 pages
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A Viking Saga. Action and adventure at the end of the Viking age from Norway across the European Steppe, along the Silk Route into China's notorious Taklamakan desert. The desert so called by locals because those who venture in seldom venture out. Experience ancient peoples, cultures, lost tribes and hidden kingdoms. As well as mystery, action, adventure, love, lust, greed, comradeship and betrayal. Just what one would expect in a Viking Saga. As the Viking age is brought to an end in 1066 with ignominious defeat at the battle of Stamford Bridge, a rag-tag group of Vikings conclude the quiet life is not for them and they decide to go-a-Viking one last time. Retracing a journey of their youth across the European Steppe and down the mighty Dniepr river heading for Byzantium. Enroute a chance discovery in a Kiev library leads them to venture even further afield - to Astrakhan, across the Caspian sea, up the mighty Oxus river, through Parthia and Bactria and along the ancient Silk Route into Asia and Tian Xia (China). Engaged in a battle not of their choosing, they inflict fatalities on the sinister and evil Black Scorpions who want to exact their revenge. Escaping entrapment in a cave, pursued, they flee by night across the Roof of the World and meet the remnants of the "lost" European tribe of Asia, the Hepthalites, who offer them protection in their city, hidden in the Tien Shan - the Celestial Mountains. A place where romance is kindled and love unexpectedly blossoms. During their winter sojourn in the Hidden City they gather more clues, and in the spring continue with their quest, on into the Taklamakan desert. The desert so called by locals because those who venture in seldom venture out. More danger and peril lies in wait for this rag-tag Viking crew as they travel along the Silk Route, the world's first super-highway. At the eastern end of their journey they meet the Lang Ren, the Wolf people of Lou Lan, outcasts thieves and criminals living in an abandoned city in the desert. A city without water. A city about to die. A city in which the final clue to their quest is uncovered. What fate awaits this motly crew and what fate awaits the Lang Ren, a rejected element of Asian society?

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This is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction, putting flesh on the dry bones of history, demonstrating the insatiable restless human desire for discovery, adventure and the pursuit of knowledge.
Be drawn into a classic sojourn which spans many religions and beliefs and incorporates the ingredients of friendship, dignity, honour, love, betrayal and greed; against the backdrop of a hostile environment which gives no quarter – just what one expects from a Viking.
An intellectual read, leaving the door open with a promise of more to come … Riveting stuff!
Paul Sweetland
EXCELLENT! The book tells a story that captures the reader on several levels. What appears to be an historical novel becomes an adventure set in a background of rich experiences and wide diversity. This adventure, alongside the stories of the different settlements and religions, and that of a moving
love story, means that this book provides a compelling and exciting journey of discovery for both the characters in the book and the reader themselves.
Laura Stannard
An adventure which skilfully combines history and fiction into a page-turner. A wonderful story.
David Lighterness
Excellent treatment of an Old Subject
Quick! What come to mind when you see the word Viking - hairy men leaping from long boats, sacking monasteries and pillaging English towns? You might even remember the 1958 Kirk Douglas/Tony Curtis movie, The Vikings, which put those images indelibly in my memory.
Those are not John Halsted's Vikings but that's not to say that the story is less entertaining. To the contrary, it has battles, thrilling escapes, hidden cities, likable characters, wonderful descriptions of distant lands, history woven into the narrative, and romance. You can't ask for more than that.
Before discussing the story, let's look at the book itself. I unwrapped it at at the mailbox and stopped in my tracks to look it over. It wasn't what I expected. It is 7 inches high (18 centimeters if you are a cataloguer or not from the U.S.) by four and a quarter inches wide, much smaller than the typical hardcover. It may seem an odd thing to remark on, but there is a satisfying heft to the book and it is easy to carry around, fitting nicely in a pocket in my windbreaker. The dust jacket is very attractive with a Viking helmet superimposed on a relief map of the area travelled by the characters. The drawing of the helmet (no horns, thank you very much) is very well executed. The paper is smooth and heavier than typical. It took me a while to realize what is was about the paper that gave me pause. More than fifty years ago I received (and still have) a British edition of The Jungle Book and the pages have the same feel. I got a feeling of nostalgia just holding this book. A segment of the route map is faintly printed on the top corner of each page. As someone who loves the printed book, I appreciate the care and detail that went into producing Legend of the Last Vikings.
Legend of the Last Vikings: Taklamakan is set at the end of the Viking period after King Harald Hardrada of Norway was killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 in an attempt to conquer England. The survivors were allowed to leave England after promising never to attack England again. Ulf Uspakson, adviser to Harald, decides to go A-Viking one last time and is joined by a select group of comrades. Their goal is to find the resting place of the Swedish Viking Ingvar Vittfarne who left to explore to the East, around the Caspian Sea and into Asia.
They find clues to their quest in the library of Kyiv (Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine) where their research is aided by an Arab prince and scholar, Ibn Rashid al-Arslan who has knowledge of the lands and peoples where they need to travel. They begin their journey in earnest at Kiev, heading south to the Black Sea then east into the Caspian Sea. Ibn joins them in the expedition, tutoring them in Arabic, and explaining the customs of the people they will encounter. They travel

About the author (2006)

“You’re only here once. Make the most of it!”

John Halsted was educated at Westville Boys High, just outside Durban, South Africa,

where he spent more time on the sports field, gaining honours for athletics, and in 1976 just managed to graduate. His lack of interest in academic school work led his teachers and parents to despair, while his coach rejoiced.


In the two years following high school he commenced national service in the South African Air Force and spent more time on athletics tours and having a good time, never fully committed to the defence of apartheid, as his Sergeant Major will readily testify. After completing his national service he used London as a base and spent the better part of eighteen months touring and cycling around Europe.


On returning to South Africa in 1980 he found a job as a shipping clerk and when the opportunity presented itself he transferred to Johannesburg, only so he could continue his athletics career. In 1982 he found himself managing a container depot. It was here that he was run over by a seven-and-half-ton forklift truck and his athletics career brought to a screaming halt – literally and figuratively. He spent three months in an orthopaedic hospital recuperating. It was also at this time that the Western nations applied strict sanctions against South Africa due the country’s apartheid policies and the shipping industry all but died. Not long after leaving hospital he found himself out of a job and without any marketable skills. The easy times were over, he had to skill up.


In 1983 he found employment as an internal auditor with a major motor manufacturer. Searching for the ideal career he later transferred to the Accounts and Finance department. In 1985 he went to night classes and trained as a computer programmer later transferring to the I.T. department.


In 1986 he met his future wife Joy, a Kiwi Occupational Therapist, on assignment from the International Leprosy Mission, at Westfort Hospital, Pretoria. They married in 1987 and in 1988 moved to Auckland, New Zealand where they had their first two children.


In 1991 John and the family were transferred from Auckland to Wellington. In 1994 he moved in to project management, finally finding his ideal career which gives him the fun, the challenge and the variety he requires. Their third child was born in 1996 and their fourth in 1998.


In 1999 the family moved to England, the birth place of his Grandmother. In 2001 he made a poignant journey to Poland and Stalag VIII-C where his father was a PoW. Always relishing a challenge, in 2004 he cycled 500m/800km across northern Spain on the Way of St James and in 2006 he cycled 300m/480km from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean through France along the Canal du Midi.


In 2000 he started a part-time MBA at Bath University, which he successfully completed in 2002. On completion of his MBA he realised just how much time he had on his hands and commenced an in-depth  personal study of Viking history (from which his family are allegedly descended). In his research he discovered Vikings who travelled East across Europe via the inland waterways to the Black sea and Caspian sea. Finding the action and adventure across Europe and along the Silk Route more interesting than family trees, it didn’t take much to convert his research into an Historical Action and Adventure novel.  In 2006 he was stunned to find himself a finalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year awards in. He is currently researching and writing a sequel.

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