Review: Oathbreaker – Adam Lofthouse

My version: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction, Germania, Romans
Self published
First published: 2019
ISBN: 1097774740
Pages: 310

Sent by the author

From the cover:
It’s not the shadows you should fear, but what hides within.
Alaric is an enemy of Rome.
For too long he has thwarted the empire’s attempts to gain control over the land that has long …
To the Romans, he is a scourge, always evading their carefully laid traps. But to the tribes, he is much worse: Outlaw, chief-killer, battle-turner, Oathbreaker.
All men know him: all men fear him. At his back is a war host; on his shoulder sits Loki, the Trickster.
A deal has been struck between the legions and the tribes; lifelong enemies agree to become friends, for a time. The eagles march with the wolves, together they hunt the raven.
Isolated and lacking in allies, will Alaric be able to break free from the noose that slowly encircles him?

Or will the Sly One once more come to his rescue?

Oathbreaker is without a doubt the best, the most enjoyable, the most satisfying and memorable Historical Fiction novel I have read in many a year. I suppose I should say here, something like, “since *name of famous historical novel here*” so you nod sagely and say, “that good, eh?” Well, to be honest, I can’t remember a(nother) Historical Fiction novel that has so, out of the blue, impressed me so much. However, I will just say god knows I know my way round a Historical Fiction book, so if I say it is superb, you can take that to the bank.

I knew how good Adam’s potential was looking, from thoroughly enjoying The Centurion’s Son and War In The Wilderness. He is surely one of the most talented new writers currently emerging in the Historical Fiction field – and lord knows we do need some new talent to compete with the ‘big boys’ (and those that might actually consider themselves ‘the big boys’), however, nothing could have prepared you and I for the sheer magnificence that is Oathbreaker.

I was absolutely blown away, knocked over, got up, was knocked over again, then blown away once more (you get the picture).

As soon as you start reading, you’ll find it fair leaps from the page, grabs you by the throat and runs you through with a Viking longsword, promises to save your family from marauding Germanic tribes, sells them instead to slave traders, throws you into a heaving shieldwall and thrusts you towards a rampaging Roman army.

Yes, I said Vikings, and yes, I said Romans.

It is set in the Roman era, in the province of Germania, basically Europe east of France and west of Poland as it is today. However, the main angle of the book, is from that of the tribes that abounded in the area of Germania. They are many and varied and pretty much hate each other. There are uneasy alliances, but no one from one tribe really trusts anyone from another tribe. In this melting pot, we find Alaric, who just about anyone, no matter what tribe or allegiances they may come from, knows as Oathbreaker. He is not liked across the whole of Germania. Respected, but most definitely not liked. At all. All except those cutthroats and mercenaries who follow his raven daubed flag, that is. To them, he is a fair and reliable leader. As long as he keeps them on the winning side and keeps their pockets full with other people’s gold. They know this, he knows it. The problem is, in his past he has had a beef with the Romans, as many of the tribes do as well, and he sees his chance for some revenge of the personal kind. He has to act quickly, before the men under him start wondering why they are fighting an enemy stronger than their normal conquests and why they are dying in the doing so.

The Viking angle comes because Adam is, as I see it, basically pointing out where the modern TV series-type view of the Vikings really originated. Not sprung suddenly fully formed in Scandinavia, but gradually, still recognisably though, in Germania and migrated northwards to the kingdoms of the Norse as we know it today. In Oathbreaker, they pray to Odin and Thor, and Alaric is especially fond of Loki – but the also revere Donar. And it works subtly and very well.

Thus follows a novel more worthy of bestseller status than any Last Kingdom Bernard Cornwell has written lately. Certainly more deserving of a tv series – combining, as it does, the afore-mentioned Romans and (proto) Vikings. Am I right? I’m right.

Alaric is simple man on the outside, but scratch the surface and he has hidden depths, a backstory effortlessly interwoven with the main action and a burning desire to kill Romans. He is, thankfully, not one of those hulking great brutes who, the split second before their two-handed battle-axe, which of course only they are strong enough to wield – with one hand – cleaves someone to the breast-bone, have to wring their (mental) hands about if they should, or should not, do it, with an “Oh dear, oh my, what has my life come to, that…” With the somebody about to get cleaved saying “Look! Would you mind awfully just bringing the axe down already!” Let’s face it, there’s no one calling anyone a ‘fool’ every five sentences. He isn’t some sort of barbarian doing a Hardy Har-Har the depressed hyena routine. Alaric is sharp as a spear point, a charismatic leader and, of course, a deadly swordsman – who will gladly run you through soon as look at you. You know – exactly what we need right now.

Oathbreaker is that rarest of modern day Historical Fiction animals. A one-off, self-contained, not the start of a series novel. Which means there is a start a middle and an end. Not a start another start and then another start. It means it contains all you need to get the most out of the book. And that means there’s no time for fluff or author indulgences and no room for passengers. It gives the writing and therefore the plot, an urgency and directness you only realise you miss in the eleventeen million series that get churned out, when you read a book as compelling as Oathbreaker. There lies perhaps the fly in the vaseline – there can’t (really) be a follow-up. You’ll see why when you read it, and, if you’re like me, you’ll be straight on to Adam telling him how he can write a follow up!

Oathbreaker has really got the lot – murder, mystery, suspense, drama and Romans and (early) Vikings. Honestly; what more could you ask for?

A wonderful, wonderful, wonderful book. Wonderful.

You can buy Oathbreaker from Amazon This link will take you to Amazon and the Kindle version, there will, I think, be a paperback version, but the details weren’t available when I wrote this.

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