The historical novel The Whale Road by Robert Low tells the first adventure of Orm the bear-slayer. Intrigues at home force young Orm to join the band of oathsworn under Einar the Black. After some fights, the oathsworn learn about the legendary hoard of Attila the Hun. A quest for riches begins.
The Whale Road is the first novel in the Oathsworn series. While the plot itself is fictitious, most of the little everyday tidbits in the book give a good impression of life in viking times. The book does end with a word from the author about what historically inaccuracies he built into the plot to make it a good story, something I have come to expect of good historical novels. Still, I am somewhat unsure about the accuracy of the book.
The author seemed a bit confused with his protagonist. On one hand, he tries to make Orm into some kind of anti-hero. The story his early fame is based on is a lie, and in general, he’s more lucky than skillful in solving the problems he faces, which he usually solves only barely. On the other hand, Orm is a real prodigy. He can pick up languages really fast by just listening to a few sentences, he knows mathematics and trade, and in his youth, he learned climbing, horse breeding, swimming, Latin, Finnish, and a few other things, all so well they impress others. These two extremes of the characterization of Orm just don’t mix well.
All in all, though, this was a rather enjoyable read. The feeling of a rough band of vikings comes across really well, so I can recommend it to people who like historical novels in Viking times, especially if they can live with some inaccuracies.