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Low, Robert 1949- (Robert Nicholas Low)

Low, Robert 1949- (Robert Nicholas Low)

PERSONAL:

Born July 8, 1949; son of James Fairbairn Low and Anne Lang; married Catherine Connell; children: Monique. Education: St. John's Grammar School, Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Hobbies and other interests: Re-enacting live steel combat.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Scotland. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Journalist. Sunday Post, Glasgow, Scotland, staff journalist, 1967-68; freelance journalist, Vietnam, 1968-1970; Daily Record, Glasgow, features writer, 1971-2003; freelance journalist and author, 2003—.

WRITINGS:

"OATHSWORN" SERIES

The Whale Road, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2007.

The Wolf Sea, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2008.

The White Raven, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2009.

Also author of La Pasionaria: The Spanish Firebrand and WG: A Life of WG Grace.

SIDELIGHTS:

A former journalist with the Sunday Post and Daily Record in Glasgow, Scotland, Robert Low spent the early part of his reporting career in war-torn Vietnam. After returning to Scotland, he found himself attracted to the lore of the Vikings, whose influence had shaped the area several hundred years before. He began riding horseback, taught himself horse archery, and joined an organization devoted to Viking re-enactments. This fascination for the tenth-century Norsemen also inspired him to write the "Oathsworn" series, a cycle of novels with a Viking theme.

The series debut, The Whale Road, centers on the fifteen-year-old protagonist Orm Rurikson, who has grown up with his uncle after the death of his mother and who is now conscripted to go out raiding with the Viking men on the ship his father pilots. This circumstance brings him back into contact with the father he has scarcely known. When Orm kills a polar bear, apparently single-handed, the crew is convinced that the boy is favored by the gods, and they make him one of the Oathsworn. These marauders are out to find a hoard of treasure believed to have belonged to Attila the Hun, and their travels take them from the fjords of Norway all the way to the Russian steppes. As it happens, Bluetooth, king of the Danes and the Norwegians, also has his eye on this prize, as does a Catholic monk who claims he is looking for the holy spear that pierced the side of Jesus when he was on the cross and has now been reshaped as Attila's sword. As they draw nearer to eastern Europe, the Oathsworn find themselves in a race against these ruthless rivals that comprises a complex web of betrayal and revenge.

Critics hailed The Whale Road as an exciting story packed with history, mythology, archaeological detail, and a fast-paced plot. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the novel a "rousing, sprawling saga of Viking warriors and the quest for hidden treasure." For Sandy Schmitz, writing in School Library Journal, the book succeeds as a "solid coming-of-age novel with more than a hint of swashbuckling." And Library Journal contributor Jane Henriksen Baird observed of the book that this is "about as good as it gets."

Low followed The Whale Road with The Wolf Sea. The sequel opens as Orm and his fellow Vikings have been washed ashore at Miklagard—modern-day Constantinople. Battered and scarred, the group has little to show for their daring deeds except possession of the Rune Serpent, Attila's coveted sword. Soon, though, the sword is stolen, and the Oathsworn set out to wrest it back from its thief, Starkad. Their quest brings them into the thick of the fighting as Constantinople becomes a battleground between Christian armies—aided by Viking mercenaries—and Muslim fighters during the Crusades.

The series' third volume, The White Raven, brings Orm and his crew back to the northern lands where they have hired themselves out to fight for Jarl Brand in the wars to unite the Svears and the Geats under one king. In thanks, Brand has given Orm some land where he can settle with his men. Tempting as this life is, however, the Oathsworn find they have no talent for farming and miss the marauding life they have temporary left behind. They are roused back into action soon enough, though, after two enemies of the Oathsworn, intent on getting Attila's treasure for themselves, capture two of the Oathsworn and try to force them to reveal the hiding place. On his way to their aid, Orm becomes entangled in a strange affair in the city of Novgorod, where a boy he has freed from a cruel captor kills the man who has kept him enslaved. Because Orm had freed the boy, he is considered responsible and the city's ruler, twelve-year-old Prince Vladimir, calls for his death. Orm's only hope of leaving Russia alive is to convince Vladimir that Attila's treasure exists, and that Orm can lead him to it. But the brutal Russian winter threatens to be as daunting a force as any human enemy.

Low told CA: "Reading first got me interested in writing. Do lots of it, then you will become frustrated at not finding what you like on the shelves and want to do it yourself.

"My work is influenced by people who make you suspend this reality for another. Fiction is the art of distorting reality, and those who can be totally persuasive in doing that always get my vote.

"My writing process is initially frenetic, followed by the inevitable and literal loss of the plot, and thereafter a more studied and careful planning.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that my approach to deadlines seems to amaze and delight people in publishing, who it appears need to bribe writers to make deadlines. As a journalist, I have spent all my life working to deadline, and it holds no fears for me.

"My first book is my favorite, because it showed that I could do it.

"I hope my books will have the effect, according to feedback, that they already have—someone on a crowded, boring train or a bus to work manages to lose an hour in another world every morning until it is done, and then frets to read the next one."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Library Journal, July 1, 2007, Jane Henriksen Baird, review of The Whale Road, p. 81.

Publishers Weekly, May 28, 2007, review of The Whale Road, p. 35.

School Library Journal, November 2007, Sandy Schmitz, review of The Whale Road, p. 160.

ONLINE

Robert Low Home Page,http://www.robert-low.com (March 16, 2008).

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