Bookshelf / The Last Viking

The Last Viking

The Life of Roald Amundsen


– Kirkus Reviews

  • Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of 2012
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the year, 2012
  • San Francisco Book Review Best Book of 2012
  • Winnipeg Free press Best Book of the Best, 2012

"Mr. Bown has produced a solid, entertaining account of Amundsen's adventures, through which he scrolls with pleasing attention to detail. This is a real 'Boy's Own' narrative, one that conjures the rasp of hickory ski on thin ice, the patter of a hundred dogs, and the whiff of tobacco after a long day on the trail. Mr. Bown is especially good on historical context."

– Wall Street Journal (Sara Wheeler)

"[A] fascinating biography…As a depiction of an explorer's life it is intelligent and often thrilling."

– London Sunday Times (James McConnachie)

"Author Stephen Bown hopes to repair Amundsen's reputation and re-introduce his achievements to readers at a time when exploration on a grand geographic scale seems like ancient history. He succeeds; his Amundsen is complicated and compelling, capable of leading men through deadly danger and telling self-deprecating stories to rapturous lecture audiences later…The New York Times published hundreds of articles chronicling his voyages, and Bown gracefully weaves together these and other journalistic records, along with journals kept by Amundsen and his men, to paint a surprisingly intimate portrait of a complex, at times difficult, yet eminently admirable man."

– BostonGlobe

"A deep, spine-chilling look at the life of Roald Amundsen, Norwegian polar explorer."

– Denver Post

"An outstanding biography of a focused, determined man…Bown has served up a crisply written book that is exciting, meticulously researched, and an appropriate literary tribute to one of history's greatest explorers."

– Tucson Citizen

"Alberta-based Bown likes to take on biographies that offer new insights into historical subjects. His Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer-showman, was a chap beloved by his men who literally put the North and South poles on the map."

– Toronto Star

"The story of a man who accomplished in two decades when other explorers of his day couldn't do in a lifetime…The world needs heroes like Amundsen, warts and all."

– Bookviews

"Details both the good and the bad about his extraordinary man."

– WomanAroundTown

"Bown's biography…breaks some new ground in detailing the explorer's time spent in New York and the evidence of his sense of humor, which stands in contrast to the usual picture of him as cold, methodical and harsh."


"Bown's tension-packed narrative recounts the illustrious career of the most accomplished polar explorer of all time."

– Winnipeg Free Press

"In a world where little is left to explore, Bown transports his readers to a time when great men battled nature to explore the earth's last remaining terra incognita. As the winter months approach, readers would be well served to buy The Last Viking and curl up in front of a roaring fire to enjoy Bown's gripping account of Amundsen's epic polar adventures."


"Bown draws on extensive research and access to the personal journals of Amundsen and his travel companions to paint rich and gripping accounts of his perilous voyages. These are often marvelously entertaining."

– Maclean's

"Sheds new light on the life and legend of Roald Amundsen."

– Calgary Herald

"An intensely researched, thoroughly enjoyable life of one history's best explorers...A superb biography of a fiercely driven explorer who traveled across the last inaccessible areas on earth before technical advances made the journey much easier."

– Kirkus Reviews (starred)


– "[An] enjoyable, informative biography."

"A fascinating look into the life of the Norwegian explorer…Bown deftly captures the true essence of the man instead of merely paying homage to the legend…The Last Viking gives readers an in-depth look into what it was like to travel into some of the last unknown regions of the world without today's fancy gadgets or even the basics such as maps, local guides or reliable communication. Amundsen, perhaps the greatest polar explorer of all time, comes to life once again to ignite the spirit of exploration in all of us."

– San Antonio Express-News

"Writing from the lofty, distancing heights of the fair-minded historian, Bown has produced a work that is sharp-eyed, thorough and convincing, and constitutes a significant addition to the Arctic canon."

– Globe & Mail (Ken McGoogan)

"[Bown] did his homework. The bibliography is basically every book out there, plus he did a lot of his own work in extensive newspaper story research (NYT-predominantly). There is a lot of controversy about this man and his methods-a lot of bias that Bown seems to navigate around. If you haven't read about polar exploration it's a good book to read since it relates the entire history of man's search for the final fabled lost lands or undiscovered sea lanes that would make trade travel quicker and cheaper…In this day of constant communication the book acts like an escape of sorts to a time when years would go by between shoving off on an expedition and returning."

– Daily Speculations

"A riveting tale of adventure, political intrigue and achievement…Exceptionally well researched and eminently readable…An important contribution to the historiography of polar exploration."

– Literary Review of Canada

"[A] full-bodied tale…The book provides detailed insights into the preparations and human elements involved in surveying arctic regions. Using actual diary entries from the Arctic expeditions to chilling effect, Bown makes the reader feel as though they have embarked on a journey through the world's harshest climates and inhospitable lands…[Amundsen] lived a life suited for the pages of an adventure novel. Bown's new biography reads as such."

– Milwaukee Shepherd Express

"A giant in the heroic age of exploration, the Norwegian Roald Amundsen was perhaps the greatest adventurer of them all..."

– The Daily Beast

"Bown is a terrific writer, never sensational, always seeming to share the achievements of a friend. His discretion about Amundsen's personal life leaves us with an endearing, enigmatic hero."

– Portland Book Review

"Armchair adventurers will love reading The Last Viking."

– "Bookworm Sez" syndicated column

"Stephen Bown makes Amundsen feel real, not just a part of history. Bown's stories are well-researched and it shows in the book. It is really detailed and covers many different aspects of Amundsen's life…The pace of the book was excellent and every part is filled with suspense…This is a great book for anyone, especially if you want to relive the moments of an unexplored Earth."

– Sacramento Book Review/San Francisco Book Review

"[Bown] describes Amundsen's approach to expeditions as military operations and portrays his gift for flamboyant self-promotion and publicity seeking on the lecture circuit."

– Reference and Research Book News

"A cracking good story."

– Hudson Valley News

"Bown draws on extensive research to create a clear and often surprising portrait of a truly adventurous spirit."

– CBC Books, 12 Days of Canlit: Adventure

"A great new biography… Well written and enjoyable, the book uses ample quotes from Amundsen to give readers a sense of the man."

– Library Journal

"The Last Viking is an eye-opening, mind-blowing page turner. Bown has the ability to convey reams of facts, figures, and statistics while engaging the reader in Amundsen's many life-and-death adventures, family squabbles, discreet love affairs, and financial struggles."

– Santa Fe New Mexican

"an insightful historian and a masterful storyteller with an unending capacity to tease an interesting story from the historical ether."

– Rocky Mountain Outlook

"[A] persuasive and highly readable biography/adventure story."

– Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"A compelling and enjoyable introduction to the man and his adventures. Bown writes Amundsen's story with a sharp eye to what's important…Amundsen's life is without a doubt fascinating, and Bown does i...

– Curled Up with a Good Book

"This work is a lovingly written tribute to one of humankind's greatest thrillseekers."

– We Love This Book (UK)

"In chronicling Amundsen's career, Bown shows that it is ultimately an explorer's vision, not his or her business acumen or public relations skills, that makes incredible feats possible. For the armchair explorers among his readers, Bown offers a second, more poignant layer of insight into how the modern age has shaped our attitudes toward the unknown."

– Canadian Geographic Magazine

"...a wonderful story, especially for armchair travelers. In addition to elements of high adventure...Amundsen's story has a heroic, larger-than-life scale."

– Quill & Quire

"Stephen Bown celebrates this pioneering explorer and redresses the balance of an enigmatic man who was a footnote to another story for far too long."

– Wanderlust (UK)

"The Last Viking should restore this remarkable man's place in the canon of explorers, while winning itself a prized place on the shelves of adventure enthusiasts."

– The Key Reporter

"Bown gracefully weaves together these and other journalistic records, along with journals kept by Amundsen and his men, to paint a surprisingly intimate portrait of a complex, at times difficult, yet eminently admirable man."

– Boston Globe

"[A] fascinating biography...As a depiction of an explorer's life it is intelligent and often thrilling."

– Sunday Times (UK)

"[An] enjoyable, informative biography."

– Booklist

"[A] captivating account of the Norwegian’s extraordinary life…Bown makes a compelling case that Amundsen deserves renewed recognition for his outstanding achievements."

– Publishers Weekly