Book review: The Oathsworn series

Book Review: The Oathsworn series, by Robert Low
The Whale Road, The Wolf Sea, The White Raven and The Prow Beast
This is an adult adventure series set amongst the Vikings just before the end of the first millennium. The hero and narrator is Orm Rurikson, known as Bearslayer, who leads a Viking band known as the Oathsworn.
The series is set during the time when the Scandinavian peoples we know as Vikings were at their pinnacle, sailing their long ships to raid and trade from northern Europe as far as the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa; across the Baltic Sea and Eastern Europe, sailing the great rivers to the Black Sea and far Constantinople (known to them as Miklagard), even going as far as the Holy Land. These Nordic adventurers raided, pillaged, fought battles, left a path of destruction and created kingdoms during their time in history.
This is the setting for the adventures of Orm and the Oathsworn, so called because of their binding oath to One-eyed Odin, lord of the Viking Gods, to be loyal to their band until death. This makes them feared even amongst the fighting Vikings. It also makes them a lot of enemies, which leads to many adventures and a lot of bloody fighting. Robert Low doesn’t hold back on realistic depictions of hand to hand fighting, with axe and sword, and he uses his extensive research and background of re-enactment on the period to support his descriptions.
The main motivation of the Oathsworn is greed, but they also seek adventure and glory, to get their names remembered in tales and songs, and so be taken up to Valhalla on their deaths to serve as Odin’s warriors. So Orm and the Oathsworn, who he will come to lead, set off on extensive and ever more perilous journeys in their long ship, the Fjord Elk. The first is in search of a fabulous silver treasure, reputedly the burial trove of Attila the Hun. In other adventures they travel to the kingdom of the Rus and get involved in the conflicts between the Scandinavian kingdoms.
Low brings a lot of historical and cultural references into the story lines, which help to set the period very well. Even readers who are familiar with the Vikings will probably get something new on many levels from reading these books.
The style of the books makes them an easy read, even with the Nordic terminology and some obscure references. Plus the tone isn’t all serious. The hero Orm is the first to admit to the reader that his title of Bearslayer is undeserved, and he has taken credit from someone else. Also, Orm realises that success and renown is often due to the exploits of others, and is just as much down to luck. But luck is no mean thing in the Viking world, and the Oathsworn prefer to follow a lucky leader, who they see as Odin’s chosen. In Orm, they also recognise his intelligence and cunning, which are also respected traits in a leader, as well as fighting skills.
If you like a good historical adventure, which keeps true to its background, then this series should suit you.
My apologies to any knowledgeable reader who is unhappy that I use the term “Vikings” to describe the Nordic warriors who are the characters in these books. There were many separate Scandinavian peoples who inhabited the medieval world and who have now been encompassed by this modern term. Robert Low certainly doesn’t make the mistake of using this term to describe his characters. However, it did make it easier to set the scene for this review.
 Glenn Hogue