The Wolf Sea, Robert Low’s second book of the Oathsworn series, continues where The Whale Road (Oathsworn #1) left off. The novel opens with young Orm, the Viking leader of the Oathsworn, with his scruffy, battle-weary band of men stranded in Constantinople. When Orm’s sword, the Rune Serpent, is stolen by Starkad, the Oathsworn embark on a perilous mission to retrieve the sword and rescue their captured brothers. Their mission takes them across the 10th Century lands of Cyprus, Syria, and Jerusalem.
Along the way, the Oathsworn get embroiled in battles between rival factions of east and west for control of land and resources. Orm has to forge alliances with various groups to ensure the survival of his followers as they advance toward their goal. They encounter Muslims, Christians, Greeks, Bedouins, and Danes. They cross deserts and seek shelter from unremitting sand storms. They enter into fierce battles and witness the gruesome horrors of torture and decapitated bodies in an atmosphere saturated with the smell of blood and haunted by flies hovering over dismembered limbs. The descriptions are vivid; the brutality graphic.
Orm emerges as the most fully developed character. He wears the mantle of leadership with a heavy heart, haunted by the responsibilities of being the leader of the Oathsworn. Thrust into unfamiliar territory, he navigates his followers through an alien land, through strange alliances and senseless killings, and through betrayals by men who were once deemed blood brothers, all the while straddling between the old-world beliefs in Odin and the Norse gods and those of the Christ-followers.
Robert Low has written another exciting work of historical fiction. It is action-packed; skillfully integrates historical fact with historical fiction; and offers a vivid description of the locations, battles, and culture clashes of the 10th Century eastern Mediterranean. It moves at a galloping pace. And, perhaps, therein lies a shortcoming. We barely have time to accommodate to one location and its inhabitants before we are thrust into yet another battle in a different location with yet another enemy. The plethora of characters, some of whom are sketchily developed at best, is another shortcoming.