Robert Low: The Lion Rampant
Yesterday saw the launch of Robert Low’s final book in his ‘making of Scotland’ trilogy. It is too easy to pigeon-hole some books. You would think with The Lion Rampant that the appeal would be primarily Scottish (the Bruce story may or may not be about the making of Scotland, but in English eyes it is generally seen as a humiliation of England – and English heckles often rise in relation to the incendiary historical travesty that was the film Braveheart). You would think that the appeal was exclusively to men, as Robert writes muscular stories with undeniable gusto about the violent worlds his characters seek out. Neither assertion is true. Disparate women have made a point of emphasising the lustre and poetry of Robert’s prose to me. Also – as Braveheart actually demonstrates – English Scottish struggles have a wide resonance. But Robert Low’s series is a clear-eyed recognition that the real story of Scotland is one of blurred loyalties and internecine strife.
In an attempt to extract the man from the pigeon-hole, we asked two fans to say why they love his work. Hopefully we blur the gender/nationality lines a little.
Terri-lea Laurie writes: Many writers can do action adventure historical fiction. Many writers can even do action adventure historical fiction extremely well. But, in my experience, not all of them can do it with that unique blend of wordsmithing, research, passion and skill that Robert Low can. And I am not talking just a skill to write, to draw characters in the mind and make them breathe and walk and talk and fight and hate, it is a skill one gets from having led a colourful life, having met a real world full of colourful characters. As a career journalist for many decades – including reporting in that maelstrom of horror which was the Vietnam War – he has probably walked a thousand miles alongside a thousand different people, and for me as a reader, I responded to that life experience from the very first book I read of his, The Whale Road (Oathsworn #1) and it has been bringing me back to his books ever since.
There are always one or two characters in each of his books that lift off the page and stick with you. In the Oathsworn series, book one, they were Pinleg and Einar. In the trilogy, The Kingdom Trilogy, that character was Dog Boy. Each individual reader may find themselves attaching to different characters in either series, but I am confident one of them will stick and stay.
For me, the author is a larger than life character himself and I would not be surprised if he surrounds himself with larger than life characters in his personal life. So, of course, why would his book’s characters not be as memorable and robust? I feel that to write his characters any other way would be to go against his grain.
You should always expect a passionate punch from his stories. They may not always go the way you want them. Characters will die when you least expect it, others will transform against your wishes, but they will always keep you on your toes and they are certainly not books that you will ever put aside and forget you have read.”
Justin Lindsay writes: Years ago, a search for Viking fiction yielded a recommendation across the bottom of my screen. I was drawn in by the cover. It depicted a rough-looking, axe-wielding lot of Vikings. It was The Whale Road, by an author I hadn’t heard of before named Robert Low. The marketing blurb was enticing, with its talk of a band of Vikings in search of legendary relics. My local library had a copy. I burned through it in days. I was hooked. I’ve since purchased every novel Robert Low has published.
His five Viking novels follow the Oathsworn, a band of raiders led by Orm. Their travels take the reader across Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Outremer, and Greek lands. They are alternately mercenaries, dreaded and mighty Viks, and lords of their own domain. Many series grow stale with each new book, but not so with Low’s Oathsworn. The characters are compelling, and the world is rich with detail, though the narrative is fast-paced. They are brutal tales. These are Northmen who revel in the shield wall, the salt sea, plunder, and pillage. Yet in the midst of it there is remarkable beauty and even tenderness.
His other three books comprise the Kingdom trilogy, which takes us through the Scottish rebellion against Edward I. Though these events are dominated in legend by William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, Low doesn’t take the easy road of making them the only center pieces of his narrative. Instead, we are at Falkirk, Stirling Bridge, and Bannockburn with the likes of Sir Hal Sientcler and others. Again, Low’s gritty style and unrepentant use of Medieval terms and dialect draws you in.
Justin Lindsay is American. He is an aspiring author, a member of the HNS web team and a frequent blogger. Find out more at http://www.justinlindsay.com/
Posted by Richard Lee