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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 4 May 2008
I did like this book, very much so and the style did remind me of a favourite author of mine; Bernard Cornwell (in fact Cornwell's recommendation tempted me to buy it) and I will be buying the second one. Pure adventure, escapist and very much like an old saga, the characters were good as was the history (it has created an interest of the Rus in me). I also found the fast moving pace and pure grittyness of life aboard a viking ship very well suited to the story. That said however the book did have a few problems in my opinion. Firstly, Low killed off too many good characters too quickly! Yes GRRM does the very same and his books are fantastic but GRRM has killed off many of his characters in the space of 4 VERY long books, not one short one. Some of Lows characyers could have been developed much better throughout the series. Secondly I found it ahrd to keep up with the villains as some appeared and dissappeared and reappeared etc etc.

That said I liked the book and will be reading this series to the end. 4/5 stars and recommended to Cornwell and historical fiction fans, and those who like the old sagas.
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Brand new author for a brand new year and one to watch, however I had read the forthcoming Conn Iggulden Wolf on the Plain prior to starting this so perhaps my views may be a little judgemental comparing the two pieces.

Whilst setting itself as a Viking novel it started off pretty well giving the reader a tale to be unfurled that would drive them into the Steppes in order to retrieve a whispered about treasure. However that said it felt the novel was a little bit rushed. Now this may seem a bit of an odd complaint as its action, action, action all the way, and whilst I do love that, I also love the lull that the sea gives into the piece, especially when you're submerged into the depths of the tale. Likewise I also felt that the novel seemed to have been mapped out and followed section by section a to b, b to c etc. However this is a first novel and as such these early errors can be forgiven.

That said however, I now feel that its time to move on to the positive points of the novel. It was beautifully written and the characters had a wonderful depth of colour about them. Even the names have had a huge amount of time and love lavished upon them so that the reader is spoiled with a wonderful crew to sail the seas alongside. As such it's a cracking read and I sincerely hope that the characters that survive continue to grow. Another positive point that Robert went with, the fact that he plays for keeps, there is no way that when surrounded by a thousand enemies that they are walking out unscathed, and as such each death tears the readers emotions some more hoping and praying that their personal favourite lives through the battle to survive until the next event.

For me this is a piece worthy of reading and for a new author, these early errors will raise their ugly heads, how an author continues to develop past these and how they go about fixing them is key to the success of further novels. The premise however for the next instalment is cleverly crafted and will bring survivors of the adventure back to their old crewmates. A heroic epic waiting to be told.
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on 10 November 2016
The first 100 pages were a bit of a slog and I nearly gave up. So glad I stuck with it though because the I quickly became engaged and the story turned into a thrilling page turner. Looking forward to the rest of the series
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In his afterword at the end of the Whale Road the author, Robert Low, says that his intention in writing the book had beem to create a 'saga' in the old-nordic tradition. Not being a regular saga reader I have no idea whether or not he managed this, but he did manage to create a reasonably entertaining and compelling tale of 'Vikings' during the Dark Ages in Northern & Central Europe.

Written in the first person from the hindsight perspective of the youngest of a band of mercenary warriors (not all are Viks from Norway so to call them Viking would be inaccurate) it is not a perfect debut by any means. By choosing a first person narrative, Low does drop the reader right into the heart of the story and its environment. By the same action however, he removes the possibility of using any dramatic irony or contemporary commentary on events. Than means the story has to stick to a very in a very linear and one dimensional story arc and limits the amount of explanation or context that can be given for the events that occur. Everything, characters, places and events, can only be seen through the eyes of the narrator, Orm, which automatically and at times frustratingly restricts our view of the world we are introduced to.

This lack of extra detail does however, mean that Whale Road avoids becoming too bloated and long winded. It is well paced too, with a feeling of constant forward motion towards it conclusion. At no point during it length did I feel bored by the book.

I did feel however, feel mildly frustrated at the author's insistence on introducing quasi-mystical or supernatural elements to the story. Whilst never openly acknowledged as being 'real' I felt that the suggestion that supernatural forces might be involved in events didn't sit well with the rest of the story. For ninety five percent of the time this felt like a historical adventure set in a real world. To suddenly throw in possession by evil spirits just didn't work. Yes, Low might have wanted to write a Saga, and sagas did involve God's and other non-human characters, but for those sort of elements to work the story must be fully committed to them. To simply tack them on to an otherwise historically accurate and realistic tale because they make a useful plot device, as Robert Low does, simply leaves them feeling out of place and unrealistic and pulls you out of the world he is portraying.

I'm not sure whether The Whale Road has done enough to get me to read the second installment of the adventures of the Oathsworn. May be when it comes into paperback and assuming I have nothing else to read I will give it a try, and on that basis I can only rate The Whale Road as a qualified success.
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on 13 July 2016
First the negative: there is a SLIGHT tendency here to shy away from battle scenes (in one instance particularly), and battle scenes are part of the reason you read books like this, so that's a shame.

That is my only reservation. Otherwise, this is terrific. The writing is great. Most historical adventures seem like they've been written by a ten year old - the English is basic at best, and usually both cliched and awkward, something you have to get over to enjoy the book. Here the writing is stylish and interesting of itself. Characterisation is achieved with just a few lines but leaps off the page. The story is detailed and just interesting. The man knows his history, not only in terms of the larger narrative (vikings travelling to England, yes, but also up the Volga, etc) but also in lots of little bits of plausible detail - how (not) to clean a byrnie, what woollen trousers do when they are wet.

And once again, the writing. I read pre-modern historical novels, mostly, and there is no one else out there who writes this well. This is an unqualified pleasure.
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The Whale Road is a very fascinating read about the vikings the author has added some real humanity to the book the fight scenes are described vividly i have read a lot of books based around the viking era lately and this is one of the best. Robert Low has described the 10th century and viking life with a lot of passion i could not put the book down a great story from a author who knows what he is writing about highly recommended.
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on 16 November 2009
This book is quite different from others within the genre; instead of the usual action-packed approach we have a book where the author crafts a scene with skilful description and characterisation before unleashing the battle scenes and brutal Viking cultural practices.

The dirt, smell, hardships and high mortality rate of the Oath-sworn is wonderfully depicted by Low's invasive and probing writing style. Other books in this area can sometimes glamorise the Viking lifestyle, whereas this one certainly opens the reader's eyes to a grittier incredibly difficult world. This book feels authentic and is a pleasurable change to the usual `sack and plunder' style typically associated with the genre.

If you are looking for an authentic, descriptive Viking saga, then I would recommend this book.

I'm certainly going to buy book two.
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on 13 March 2009
I bought this book because I'm a great fan of Bernard Cornwell,Conn Iggleden and Robyn Young,but I'm afraid I am quite disappointed with it.It is very confusing at the beginning with too many characters being introduced and the plot hard to follow. The author also uses random words, of which I imagine, most people have no understanding.It almost seems like he is showing off the amount of research he has done. I am three quarters of the way through this book and I have been lost several times as to what is going on. I don't think I shall be buying anymore in this series.
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on 21 February 2013
Fantastic. Similar style of book, writing to Bernard Cornwell.
Absolutely convincing characters,good intricate detailing of small things,such as the food eaten, the different civilisations the characters come from, their beliefs,religion it`s all there?
The main characters have warmth,depth. You understand their plight,know why they behave the way they do.
Passion, betrayal,lust,historical accuracy,small details, everything?
All this, with good solid plots that take the reader all over the globe of the Norse era, with excitement, nail-biting cliff hangers ranged against some downright despicable,hideous bad guys of truly epic proportions.
All done in such a way that you feel you`ve really accompanied young Orm every inch of the way on his saga.
Interesting too,and quite amazing that Robert manages to tie real dates/events/characters together with Orms.
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on 30 December 2008
I have to confess to having been sat on a copy of this for a year or so. Bought it on a whim then its rather unexciting title and cover meant it sat maturing on my shelves till a recent trip to the old Viking town of York.

Suitably inspired I pulled it down from the shelf but perhaps not with the greatest of expectations. So I was very pleasantly surprised when I finally set off on my journey with 'Orm', the young lad who falls in with the 'Oathsworn' a group of mercenary veteran Vikings under the leadership of the grim 'Einer the Black'.

Low writes in quite an understated way. He's not one for the over use of superlatives or 20 page battle scenes. What he does do is include a bit more detail and authentic Norse culture and terminology than many of his peers. That is not to say the book lacks action because it does not, nor is the story lacking drama, the Oathsworn are on an ill fated mission to recover the sword of the long dead Attila and the story takes them from the coast of Scotland to the Russian steppes and many of the crew will die in the process. There are plot twists aplenty and a built in emotional roller coaster.

If I had to be hyper critical I would say the author could have given us a bit more room for charactor development and dialogue and the first chapter is a little confusing as we are introduced to the lead charactors whilst the action constantly switches between past and present due to a series of flashbacks in which we learn of the story behind Orm the bear slayers name and reputation.

But I want to stress I thoroughly enjoyed this little Norse odyssey, it differs in style with the other British big hitters of historical fiction but I see no reason why Low should not feel quite at home in their company. I have also already bought the follow up book.
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