Tenth century AD. Orm Ruriksson, fifteen, joins the crew of the Fjord Elk, a Viking raiding ship. He journeys from adolescence to manhood as the Elk’s crew undertake a mission which leads them, via a young woman allegedly possessed of magical powers of prophecy, to find Attila the Hun’s lost treasure and with it, the blade that killed the Christians’ god.
The first of Robert Low’s Oathsworn books begins terrifically; you get a fantastic sense of what it would have been like, physically and psychologically, to have been a Norse raider. The detail and observation is convincing, as are the battle sequences and the descriptions of life on board. The first hundred pages are an exhilarating rush and though that level of pace and intensity of experience isn’t maintained once the plot kicks in (and we find ourselves in an oddly Indiana Jones-ish narrative, albeit one with more swearing, sex and blood than the good Doctor Jones ever had to endure), this is nevertheless a brisk, brutal and enjoyable read, though perhaps one that ends up being less serious a book than it promises in the first pages.
Low, Robert. 2007. The Whale Road (London: Harper), 340 pages, 978-0007215300