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Book Review: Ancient Games: A History of Sports and Gaming - is it awesome? Tell me now!

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

By: Iris Volant and Avalon Nuovo

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Historical Setting: Ancient History

Reading Age: 8+

Upon opening Ancient Games: A History of Sports and Gaming’s thick chunkilicious (yes, that is a real word) cover, be prepared to be wowed, as this is one gorgeous-looking book.

Sumptuous comic book-like visuals adorn each page. Illustrator Avalon Nuovo has done a tremendous job bringing a variety of eras to bright colourful life. Be it Vikings playing knattleikr, gladiators doing vicious battle, or Maya hoofing a pok-a-tok ball with their elbows, Avalon's distinctive penmanship ensures the pop-art visuals, well, pop. Each splash page has a story to tell, and a huge amount of the enjoyment to be had from reading Ancient Games is diving eyeball first – though not literally, head butting such a sturdy book would surely hurt - into its artwork and savour every detail.

That’s not to suggest that Iris Volant is a slouch, far from it. Her detailed, yet accessible, writing is filled with fascinating titbits. Did you know that in the Roman Colosseum’s opening games, more than 9,000 animals were killed? Or that the Chinese kind of invented football 2,000 years ago? Or that in England in the mid-1200s every man between the age of 15 and 60 had to know how to use a bow and arrow? Or that the Ancient Egyptians played tug-of-war? Or that Sumo wrestling was originally intended to make rice grow? Or that the Vikings freaking love board games (I mean, who doesn’t love board games? Board Game Nerds 4 Life)?

I could go on with the history trivia, but I won’t, as there’s far too much good stuff here to fit into a review. Be assured that reading this book will provide you with many golden nuggets of historical knowledge to regale your friends, family, and teacher with.

Iris has an uncanny knack for sifting through, no doubt, a vast amount of historical research to share with the reader only the most fascinating and concise information. This is a breezy and enjoyable read, making it an ideal reference book for children.

What is equally impressive as the art and words is the scope of the book, as it covers over five thousand years of human history. That’s a whole lot of content. You’ll find the Sumerians here, alongside Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Maya, Greeks, Knights, Feudal Japan, and much more besides.

It’s a kaleidoscopic account of human gaming history, delivered with visuals that would make Marvel proud, I mean, what more could you want from a children’s history book?


We loved Ancient Games: A History of Sports and Gaming, who knew that investigating sports and games could provide such insight into people of the past, their behaviour, their values, and their culture? If you’re looking for a stonkingly good history book for your children or students to enjoy and learn from, then Ancient Games: A History of Sports and Gaming is not to be missed.

A big thank you to Flying Eye Books for providing us with a review copy of 'Ancient Games: A History of Sports and Gaming'.

If you'd like to buy the book, you can find more information on the Flying Eye Books website


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