The Oathsworn Series
Let's start with a couple of dates – 793AD and 1263AD. Yes, I know how annoying that sort of history can be and I promise they will be the last ones you see here.
The first is the year the Vikings raided Lindisfarne and introduced the concept of longships, pillage and plunder to the world. The latter is when the Norse of Orkney fought the Scots at Largs and needed a win; they managed only a draw and went home, never to raid again.
In the intervening era they populated Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Shetland Islands, Orkney, the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. They founded states in Ireland and in Britain. They conquered Normandy in France and founded a dynasty there which ruled far into the Middle Ages.
They built merchant towns in Birka in Sweden, Hedeby (pronounced Hedeboo) in Denmark and Skiringsaal in Norway. They even created the first colony in America long before anyone else in Europe knew any land existed that far westwards. They conquered London, besieged Lisbon, burned Santiago, assaulted Seville, attacked Mallorca; they sold Irish monks as slaves in North Africa and North Africans as slaves in Ireland.
Vikings also founded kingdoms in Russia and built trade stations along the rivers, all the way down to the Black and Caspian Seas. They went to Constantinople and Bahgdad, traded with Khazakhstan, formed the most feared elite regiment in the Byzantine army - that bulwark of Christianity in the east - a guard which existed for one hundred years.
Yet most folk, even Scandinavians, know only that Vikings wore horned helmets. Which they never did. I can’t hope to redress the balance and would not presume to claim that my books reveal the real Vikings. But I hope they go some way to showing that there is more to the Norsemen of the Dark Ages than has so far been uncovered in fiction and that, at a time when the rest of the society huddled together, bemoaning the loss of Roman civilisation and trying desperately to recreate underfloor heating, the Norse went coldwards and stormwards in a hostile world.
This is the harsh world of the Oathsworn: a shipload of hard men owing no allegiance save to each other, bound by an oath made under the eye of Odin.
The Whale Road (2007)
By 965AD the raiding Norse who had carved out the kingdoms in Scandinavia and elsewhere are finding they no longer have a role to play.
All the jarls – petty chieftains – who took on warriors to make them great no longer want those swords around now they have achieved their goal.
Those once-proud veterans are dropped in status, no longer the lauded heroes they had once been and reduced to being merecenaries. They form bands, called varjazi by the people east of the Baltic – the Greek version of it is varangii and, eventually, that word came to be applied to the Varangian Guard, famed elite axe-wielding favourites of the Byzantine Emperors.
That is exactly what the Oathsworn are when, led by Einar the Black, they take on a task for the trade port of Birka and cross the path of a young man known as Orm Bearslayer, whose story this is.
"A company of warriors, desperate battles – an enthralling read" ~ Bernard Cornwell
The Wolf Sea (2008)
The second book in the Oathsworn series finds Orm and a handful of his surviving warriors washed up in Miklagard - Constantinople - with nothing to show for their previous adventures but scars, a few coins and the sword of Attila the Hun.
The sword is soon stolen, and with it the one secret Orm still keeps - a secret which holds the key to untold riches for himself and his crew.
Battle-weary and out of luck, the Oathsworn lie waiting for Orm to bring them back once more to wealth and warfare.
But without the legendary Rune Serpent sword, their only course of action is to pursue its thief, the ruthless and elusive Starkad.
Unafraid to fight and cunning in the ways of men, they wreak violence and bloody revenge on their enemies. Caught up in the treacherous battles in the East between the rulers of Constantinople, aided by hordes of Viking mercenaries, and the Arabs, their adventures take them from Greece to Jerusalem, across the treacherous wolf sea where only the hunting hungry dare set sail.
"Historical writing at its best and most full-blooded, with its tremendous pacing, black comedy, a wonderfully vivid and rough-hewn prose style like runes hacked into granite, and most appealingly of all, its doomy, pagan sense of comradeship-unto-death between Orm Rurikson and his band of Viking brothers” ~ William Napier
The White Raven (2009)
third book in the Oathsworn series finds Orm and his crew attempting to
stay away from the hoard of Attila and the vengeful spirit of Hild.
They have been engaged in a conventional occupation, as hired men fighting for Jarl Brand in the wars to create a king of both Svears and Geats. Salted with plunder and promises that all this is necessary, Orm has kept his men happy and is given land by Jarl Brand. But the Oathsworn are no landsmen farmers, and are busily building a new Fjord Elk when, finally, circumstances force Orm back onto the whale road in pursuit of all the silver of the world.
Two enemies of the Oathsworn have heard of Attila's hoard and are searching for it. Brondolf Lambisson, an old foe, and Klerkon, a new one, conspire to take two of Orm's men prisoner and force the secret of the hoard’s whereabouts from them.
Orm sets sail to the rescue. On the way he releases a strange nine-year-old boy from the clutches of Klerkon, a boy known as Crowbone who claims he is a prince.
repays Orm by killing his hated captor in full public view in the main square
of Novgorod, which results in Orm, Finn and others facing the penalty for such
an event – death
by the stake.
In order to get out of it, Orm has to persuade the ruler of Novgorod, the 12-year-old Vladimir, that the fabled hoard of Attila is real – and that Orm knows where to find it.
So it come about that, in order to rescue his comrades, Orm must lead the Oathsworn, the retinue of Prince Vladimir and the mysterious little Crowbone, back to the burial mound of Attila, out across the steppe in the worst of winters – which the Norse call the White Raven.
"No modern novelist knows more about the Vikings than Robert Low. In the Oathsworn series he has created a completely convincing and utterly compelling modern Viking Saga. The history, myth and fiction are folded seamlessly together: wonderful, unbeatable stuff” ~ Harry Sidebottom
The Prow Beast (2010)
The fourth book in the Oathsworn may be the final adventure for Orm and his band – but it's also their most gripping.
Jarl Orm and his war-wise band have become feared and respected throughout the Viking world. Their name goes before them and men cower in their presence.
But fame comes at a price: Sterki, an old enemy with revenge in his heart, attacks their homestead. The Fjord Elk is sunk, old oarmates die and the Oathsworn are forced to flee into the mountains.
Unused to losing, Orm and his surviving companions retreat to lick their wounds. But even at this low ebb they must keep strong hearts, because they have been entrusted with the care of Queen Sigrith, pregnant and soon to bear the heir to the crown of Norway. His urge for revenge is strong, but Orm's first duty is to protect the queen.
He soon realises that revenge is not the only thing on Sterki's mind. He has joined forces with Styrbjorn, nephew of King Eirik and next in line to the throne of Norway... if he can only get rid of the current heir.
As the Oathsworn fight to defend themselves, their fortunes and an unborn prince, they have time to reflect that the hammer of fate can fall heavy on the famous.
"A fantastic book, one of the best I have read for years. There’s a wonderful earthiness to proceedings and Robert creates a tangible sense of being there. There’s a sturdy, lyrical and epic quality to the writing which makes it feel like the kind of saga a Viking would recount in his old age” ~ Simon Scarrow
“I’ve read all four Oathsworn books and I loved them all – but The Prow Beast is, I think, the best of them all: poignant, muscular, magical and impossible to put down.” ~ Angus Donald
The highly-anticipated continuation of the Oathsworn saga…
A man lies dying with a message he cannot take to his grave, a sworn secret that must be passed on only to Olaf Tryggvasson, kin of Harald Fairhair of the Yngling line and true prince of Norway, also known as Crowbone.
When the message finally arrives, so begins a quest to discover its meaning, and for Crowbone to gain what is rightfully his: the crown of Norway.
With a band of Chosen Men, Crowbone begins an unforgiving journey that will see him face the challenge of new enemies and confront his suspicions of treachery from old friends. Looming over all is his ultimate rival; Gunnhild, the Witch Mother of Kings, Crowbone's arch-enemy who will stop at nothing to prevent him from knowing what and where this secret is.
In the fifth installment of his Oathsworn series, Robert Low is back to his full-blooded Viking best, this time visiting the harsh terrain of the North Sea coast, in a tale about one man's quest for survival and the unexpected alliances that emerge, as the very bonds that tie the Oathsworn together are put to the test.
"No modern novelist knows more about the Vikings than Robert Low” ~ Harry Sidebottom