The Prow Beast
In the latest volume of the Oathsworn series, young Viking Orm has become leader of his own hall, resting on his laurels with his loyal band of warriors before starting up another successful season of raiding. But fate has something else in store for Orm and his Oathsworn, something they have never known until now: a tragic and humiliating defeat. Now Orm is called to a different kind of battle, this time not as raider but as rescuer: guarding the safety of a queen, an heir, a foster-son, and the lives of the few surviving Oathsworn. Orm finds himself pondering the meaning of his blood-soaked fate even as he is helpless to avoid it.
The story starts out in the best way – with a battle – and the action never flags for a moment all the way to a jarring end that leaves the reader exhausted yet wanting more. The writing is sharp and blunt, filled with wonderful meaty turns of phrase but not overwrought with them, creating a feeling of authenticity without an ounce of cliché or unnecessary weight. This series is not for the squeamish – blood and gore and brutality permeate every page – but The Prow Beast is more than just a frenzied string of battles. It’s a story both simple and complex, layered with themes of politics, religion, philosophy, revenge, and fate. Orm is a fantastic protagonist, now the hunted instead of the hunter, empathizing with his enemies but still determined to destroy them. Not all the characters are as richly developed, but the story more than makes up for it. Newcomers to the series will have no trouble leaping into the fray, and longtime fans will find this an epic tale worthy of the Oathsworn. Very highly recommended.