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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 23 September 2012
At last, Robert Low has gone back to "doing" Vikings, and this one is a treat because it is different. The previous volumes of the Oathsworn were rather focused on Orm and Finn, his right-hand man. We do get to see a bit of them, but they tend to take second place. This is because this book is mostly about the early years as a young warlord of Olaf Tryggvasson, who would become what he is shown to want so much in the book: one of the most fearsome Battle Kings of Norway - feared, but not loved.

One of the most interesting features of this book is the drawing of Olaf's somewhat complex character. Deep down, he is scarred by his youth during which his parents were slaughtered and he was made into a slave. He knows fear but overcomes it through force of will, bravery and ever recklessness. He also becomes cunning, cruel, ferocious and rather unscrupulous, to say the least. By and large, he is anything but a "nice" character, but then he would not survived very long if he had been. Another related feature which I found most interesting is the implicit and explicit comparisons that Low has his readers make. If you have read the other books in the series (or even if you haven't for that matter), the contrasts and similarities between Orm and Olaf are striking, with the former being wary, although not afraid, of the latter's recklessness and somewhat paranoid behaviours, whereas Olaf becomes little by little to becomes colder and less human.

Another great feature is the depiction of some of the other characters that we come across, and who seem and feel real, regardless of what they really were like, and this is something that we will probably never know anyway. These include the old Viking King of Dublin and his sons, with Sigurd who would be among the warlords defeated at Clontarf more than 30 years later, without forgetting his wife of whom we will probably learn quite a bit more in Robert Low's next instalment. We also have the last son of Eric BloodAxe, his fearsome which of a mother and his two henchmen, including a psychopath of a youth who happens to be a very gifted killer. The fictitious characters are just as good and the historical ones with all of them coming to life.

A third (or is the fourth?) element which I particularly liked was the kind of guided tour through the Viking World of the 10th century that Robert Low takes us through in this volume. All is accurate and well-researched, at least as far as I can tell, from the last stronghold of the Khazars on the Black Sea, to Norway, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the last stronghold of the Picts and the Jarl of the Orkneys. The quest for Odin's Daughter, a magical Battleaxe that brings both power and ultimate doom to all of its owners, feels like a Viking version of the Quest of the Grail, with all its treachery and violence. The final climax, up in "Finmark" and then in the Orkneys, is as brutal and violent as you can expect and rather well done, even if not entirely a surprise. It also includes the hint that we will be having more of the Oasthsworn in future as Orm and his men sails to Ireland to attempt to win back his wife.

All is all, a superb read on the same high standard as all of the previous books in the series. I lapped it all up as fast as possible, loved every minute of it, and I am still asking for more...
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on 4 September 2014
I have enjoyed all the Oathsworn books, I must say the Whale Road is still my favourite, it still makes me shiver when I think how well it described the cold sailing these people had to endure. But I dont like the character Crowbone, otherwise 5 stars as usual for Robert Low. If I was with the Oathsworn I would have stabbed the little git in the back very early in the story
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on 3 August 2015
Was thrilled to discover a fifth book in the Oathsworn series and Crowbone did not disappoint. A well worked plot with just the right mix of intrigue, suspense, mindless violence, magic and humour. Robert Low brings the Viking world alive in a thoroughly credible way. Really hoping there'll be a sixth Oathsworn novel soon.
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on 13 May 2017
Bought for my Dad
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on 31 March 2017
cracking
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on 14 April 2017
A great series, this is the poorest of them but it is good.
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on 14 September 2016
A really exceptional read,as with the rest of the Oath sworn series.If you like blood guts history this is definitely for you.
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on 18 September 2012
The Oathsworn series is one of those 'must have now' series for me. Partly because they are just so well written and researched, but mainly because characters in this ongoing story are like my own personal friends now having spent some 4 years travelling with them.

So this episode was a little bit disappointing in that Orm and Finn have fairly small parts to play in the overall story. That is because, as the name of the novel indicates, this is the Crowbone show! For those of you who have been with the series from early on, you will remember young Olaf (aka Crowbone) was the prince come slave rescued by the Oathsworn from his life chained to a privvy.

Here we catch up with him on a quest to find the lost Axe of Eric Bloodaxe known as Odin's daughter, in the belief this magical item will bring him closer to the main prize of becoming King of Norway. This gives the story a 'Quest' theme with also a bit of a 'Norse its a knockout' flavour as several rival teams all set off to find the Axe at the same time. (anyone under 30 will have no idea what I'm on about!)

As usual I will try and avoid spoiling so will just touch on the themes rather than the plot. These were largely about Norse power politics and King making which can be roughly distilled down to make men love you or fear you and if you can do neither bury an axe in their head. Crowbone has to come to terms with being the main man and leader in the absence of his Jarl Orm and suffers some mixed fortunes as a result.
The story starts with a bedraggled collection of priests on the Isle of Mann with a secret and climax's in the mountain caverns of Finland via the battle for power in Ireland. It's all about ambition and revenge really.

Low stirs in his hard won research and knowledge of spending much of his time living like a Viking into the story and each Oathsworn adventure feels further steeped in genuine Norse culture and language. So much so I have found myself using the word plootering much to the confusion of my family! There was a couple of new character's added to the cast list including a very compelling and sinister bad guy.

Perhaps Crowbone is not so easy to like and identify with as the less ambitious and more self doubting Orm which did remove an element for me but there is always so much to enjoy in these Viking tales of Robert Low's. Action, adventure, trajedy and the blackest of humour. I was also very pleased to read the hint that the big fella may have another Viking tale up his sleeve yet so as Finn would say 'Heya' to that.
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Crowbone is set mainly in Ireland and Scandinavia in 979-981. The central character, Olaf Tryggvason ( Crowbone) is a historical figure, as are his arch-enemies Gunnhild Mother of Kings, widow of Eirik Blood-Axe, and her last son Gudrod. Other main characters are fictional. The historical Norse Earls of Orkney and various Irish kings appear as secondary characters.
In 979, Olaf Tryggvason (known as Crowbone) is seventeen and already a veteran fighter and raider. Having quarrelled with his friend Vladimir of Kiev, Crowbone is no longer welcome in the Rus lands and is at something of a loose end when he meets his old friend Orm Bear-Slayer, jarl of the Oathsworn, in Hamburg. Orm has received a message from a monk on the Isle of Man concerning a secret that could help Crowbone make good on his claim to the throne of Norway. Orm gives Crowbone silver to hire a ship and a crew, and sends him off with the trader who brought the message. But Crowbone’s rival and arch-enemy Gunnhild Mother of Kings and her last surviving son Gudrod – who between them were responsible for the death of Crowbone’s parents – have also heard of the secret, and will pursue it and Crowbone to the death. And the monk on the Isle of Man is not all he seems. As the quest unfolds and the searchers converge on their goal, Crowbone faces battle, shipwreck and treachery, and must decide who if anyone he is willing to trust.
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on 5 September 2013
Having previously read (and loved) the Oathsworn series I could barely wait for this book to be released, as by the time I'd finished them I felt like Orm and the crew were old friends, and Low's wonderfully vivid style, peppered with his own "kennings" is like Cornwell++ for those with a background knowledge of Norse and Old English culture: the text hits you like the slap of cold rain on your face.

In this book, we see Crowbone the creepy kid breaking out on his own, sent off to ride his own learning curve by an older, wiser Orm. Where there's rumour of a powerful artifact and powerful people competing over it, you know who you're expecting at the bottom of it and, sure enough, the dreaded Martin of Hammaburg turns up...

After tripping up on his own pride and arrogance a number of times through this journey into the eldritch wilderness of the Finnmark, Crowbone begins to learn his lesson to grow into an increasingly credible candidate for the crown of Norway. But at what price?

The one very minor criticism I'd have (from a wider view of Low's books) is that Low's style seems not quite so well suited to third-person narrative as it is to first-person accounts. It just never seems to flow as fluently and has a somewhat staccato feel to it when he writes in the third person. But that might just be a personal preference...
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