The White Raven

by Robert Low

Reviewed by David Maclaine

In The White Raven, third in the "Oathsworn" series, the saga resumes five years after the events in The Wolf Sea. The narrator, Jarl Orm, has done his best to turn his crew of Viking raiders into peaceful farmers, but it's soon clear their time on shore will end once their new ship is ready. On return from their first test cruise they discover hard men have descended upon their shores to force Orm to reveal the secret of a vast hidden treasure. They sail to save the kidnapped sister of one of their wives - but the pursuit frees another captive whom readers of the Icelandic Kings' Sagas will recognize as a young man whom destiny will take far: Olaf is a fine teller of tales who claims to understand the messages of birds. His taste for precocious violence, so admired in the Norse tradition, shows in an ill-timed act of revenge which brings the crew that saved him to the brink of execution. Trading away the secret of the treasure to save their lives, Jarl Orm finds himself with his crew on a hard winter journey led by another young prince, Vladimir of Holmgard. Once again the crew must contend with a harsh environment, a circling pack of enemies, and the ever-present danger of betrayal. Once again their path leaves behind it a long trail of blood.

Low continues to paint a convincing picture of the landscapes and mindsets of the tumultuous tenth century. The action is harsh and realistic, and the portrayal of character matches or exceeds the high standard of the first two novels. Low skillfully draws his portraits of the historical figures from an assortment of sources, but it's his impressive characterization of the young prodigy Olaf that sets this novel apart. Like its predecessors, The White Raven is an uncompromising look at the bloody destinies awaiting the men who strive to win silver and undying fame with edge of ax and sword. (2008, 357 pages)

More about The White Raven at Powell's Books or

The White Raven appears on the list of The 45 Best Historical Novels Set in the Viking Age

Other novels about Viking raiders:

The Whale Road by Robert Low (2007), #1 in the Oathsworn series. See review or more info at Powell's Books

The Long Ships by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson (Swedish edition in two volumes 1941 and 1945; English translation in one volume 1954; the first volume published singly in English as Red Orm in 1943), a humorous adventure novel about tenth-century Viking raiders. More info

Blood Eye by Giles Kristian (2009), about a carpenter's apprentice taken prisoner by Viking warriors, who comes to enjoy their life of adventure and savagery; #1 in the Raven series. More info

Icelandic Sagas:

The Sagas of Icelanders selected by Jane Smiley (2000). More info

The Icelandic Sagas by W.A. Craigie (1913). More info

The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180-1280) by Theodore M. Andersson (2006). More info

At the Movies:

The Long Ships, the over-the-top 1964 Viking adventure movie directed by Jack Cardiff and starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier.


The Icelandic Saga Database

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