Book Review: Oathblood by Mercedes Lackey

Posted March 9, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Oathblood by Mercedes Lackey

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Oathblood by Mercedes Lackey
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Published by DAW on April 1, 1998
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also by this author: Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill, Victories, Blood Red, The House of the Four Winds, Closer to Home, Changing the World: All-New Tales of Valdemar, Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar, Winter Moon, Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar, Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters, No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar, From a High Tower, Hunter, Closer to the Heart, Silence, A Study in Sable, Elite, Closer to the Chest, Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar, A Scandal in Battersea, The Hills Have Spies, The Bartered Brides, Dragon's Teeth, Eye Spy, Breaking Silence, Pathways, The Case of the Spellbound Child, Jolene, Passages, Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, The Serpent's Shadow, The Oathbound, The White Gryphon, The Silver Gryphon, Beyond, Spy, Spy Again, Oathbreakers, The Lark and the Wren, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, The Wizard of London, The Robin and the Kestrel, Exile's Honor, The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley, Owlflight, Exile’s Valor

Technically the third installment in the Vows & Honor fantasy series for Young Adults (and a subseries of Lackey’s Valdemar universe) that is actually an omnibus of ten assorted short stories and one novella revolving around Tarma and Kethry and spanning when Tarma first became Sword-Sworn to after the two are settled at the Keep.

I’m really annoyed that Lackey pushes Oathblood as the third in the Vows & Honor series, filled as it is with all sorts of stories that are mostly in between The Oathbound, 1, and Oathbreakers, 2.

The Series

“Sword-Sworn”, 0.05
“The Talisman”, (Takes place just after Kethry deals with her former spouse and finds Tarma and Kethry still riding Kessira and Rodi.)
“Wings of Fire”, #3.1
“Spring Plowing at Forst Reach”, #3.2
“Oathblood”, #3.3

The Stories

A pair of freelance mercenaries, Tarma shena Tale’sedrin is a Shin’a’in swordswoman and Kethry, a.k.a. Greeneyes, is a White Winds sorceress soul-bonded to Need, an enchanted sword that can heal anything short of death and giving its wielder a master’s ability to use it. Hellsbane and Ironheart are their Shin’a’in battlemares.

“Sword-Sworn”

It’s a night of celebration for the Clan, and the night of ambush. A horror story that finds Tarma dedicating herself to the Sword of the Shin’a’in Goddess of the South Wind, a.k.a. the Warrior or the Star-Eyed, seeking vengeance. The tale of how Tarma and Kathry first met and why they become blood sisters.

The Characters
In the Clan of the Stooping Hawk / Deer’s Son / the Hawk’s Children?? of the Shin’a’in of the Dhorisha Plains, Dharin is Tarma’s fiancé. Tarma is a beautiful singer. Kessira is her horse. Kefta, Tarma’s brother-uncle, is a sword-dancer.

Kethry is a sorceress bound to help women in need. Need is the sword.

The Liha’irden is another Shin’a’in clan. One hundred and four years after a Shin’a’in Swordsworn died, he appears to train Tarma. The Moonpaths are a meditative trance. The House of Scarlet Joys is a brothel run by Madam Isa.

“Turnabout”

The merchant trains of the town are under constant attack by bandits, no matter what tricks the traders attempt. In desperate hope, they hire Tarma and Kethry.

It’s a fun story with some interesting challenges for the two. That Grumio is a truly practical man: “I do not instruct the weaver in her trade . . . nor do I dictate the setting of a horseshoe to a smith. There is no reason why I should presume to instruct you in your trade either.” It’s that ending that will have you ROFLYAO when Kethry does a turnabout on the bandit chief. I loved it! Only . . . it’s not good to leave your enemies alive.

The Characters
Warrl is a wolf-like creature, a kyree from the Pelagir Hills, with a psychic bond to Tarma. Grumio is a merchant. Tedric is a guard using mind-magic. Bard Leslac wrote songs about Tarma and Kethry and always getting the facts wrong.

“The Maning of a Legend”

Oops, it’s bad enough Tarma and Kethry stop in Viden, but a drunken Lord Gorley upends everything.

It’s an unexpected twist that will keep you undecided between laughter and amazement.

The Characters
Warrl is here. Viden is a town ruled by a petty despot, Kendrick, Lord Gorley. Lady Gorley is the true force. Rory Halfaxe is a loudmouth in Lyavor.

“Keys”

Need has pulled Kethry and Tarma to Felwether where its lady is about to hang.

It’s a locked-room mystery which Kethry and Warrl must solve while Tarma battles the town’s challengers.

The Characters
Lady Myria is accused of murdering her husband, Lord Corbie of Felwether and sentenced to hang. Katran is Myria’s companion. The seneschal is half-brother to Corbie. Warrl is here.

“A Woman’s Weapon”

Tarma, Warrl, and Kethry are on their way to an interview with Idra of the Sunhawks.

It’s an environmental tale of how shortcuts can poison the earth. I do have one niggle about the speed at which Lenne is being got at and how much faster it was to reverse. Still a good tale.

The Characters
Warrl is present. Justin warned Kethry. Master Karden runs a new-style tannery that harms the earth. Captain Idra commands an elite troop of mercenaries, the Sunhawks. Old Man Murfee used to run the inn, but died two weeks ago. Master Lenne is with the Tanner’s Guild.

“The Talisman”

On their way to the Dhorisha Plains, Tarma and Kethry encounter a lone village plagued by a bear.

In Lackey’s foreword, she notes complaints about magic getting Kethry and Tarma out of all their troubles, so she writes of different ways in which these two save the day. It’s a sad tale of a woman caught up in her own anger and envy.

The Characters
Tarma is still riding Kessira; Kethry is riding Rodi, a mule. Potter is a tiny village with a public well, which produces exquisite pottery. Egon Potter is the Guildmaster. Mara Yveda is an old schoolmate of Kethry’s.

“A Tale of Heroes”

It’s Need pulling Kethry and Tarma off their planned track to a town plagued by a monster. And then another monster!

We discover that Tarma adores children! We also discover it takes Tarma and Kethry forever to figure out what to do with Fallan!

The Characters
Landric is a Wheel-bound farmer who has traveled. He has five children. Lord Havirn has taken the “dragon solution”. He has a spoiled daughter. Fallan is an unfortunate chambermaid.

“Friendly Fire”

After resupplying themselves, Tarma and Kethry find ill luck following them everywhere.

It’s strictly a fun and sad tale with everything going wrong that possibly could.

The Characters
Ikan and Justin are mercenary friends of Tarma and Kethry who work as guards. Kata’shin’a’in is a town where the caravan routes start. A sect of Lurchan makes cursed coins. Ponjee is a village.

“Wings of Fire”

An evil sorceress obsessed with power is torturing a Hawkbrother into helping her.

It’s a tale of good intentions and pride that lead to death. Poor Kethry has obviously gotten older as she’s moaning about getting older. Poor baby.

The Characters
Kethry, who is now an Adept-class mage, and Jadrek (Oathbreakers) have children! Jedri, Lyan and Laryn are twins, and Jadrek. The Liha’irden Clan. The murdered man, a lad’ele’ruvon (knowleddge-seeker), is a shaman from For’a’hier (Firefalcon Clan). Stormwing k’Sheyna is a Hawkbrother who protects firebirds. The owl-eagle is his bond-bird. The sneering Keyjon stole all her magics. Gervase was a wizard-lizard who wrote of the mage wars.

“Spring Plowing at Forst Reach”

It’s a tease Lord Kemoc lays on his bard, warning him of the excitement of spring plowing. It’s a behavioral nightmare that culminates in Bard Lauren bringing Tarma, Warrl, and two former Sunhawks back to Ashkevron Manor to fix a centuries-old problem.

Lackey makes an excellent point about family: “It is easy for parents to pull the strings that make one dance . . . After all they are the ones who tied those strings in place.” This is such a funny story about horses and that ending sentence about peer pressure . . . oh, YES, lol.

The Characters
At Ashkevron Manor, Vanyel’s home back in the day, Lord Kemoc is its master. And old friend of Kemoc’s, Bard Lauren is trying to ease his pains. The Gray Stud was the foundation stallion for Ashkevron-bred warhorses. Supposedly a Shin’a’in warsteed (Magic’s Promise, 2), his temper and intelligence have bred true throughout the centuries.

The Keep is the combined school established by Kethry (for mages) and Tarma (for warriors). Jadrie, a seven-year-old, is Kethry’s eldest and old enough for a horse of her own. Unless she changes her mind, ,she’ll be the first of the renewed Clan of Tale’sedrin. Jadrek is Kethry’s husband. Kessira was Tarma’s first horse.

Jodi n’Aiker had been one of Tarma’s scouts in the Sunhawks. Beaker Bowman, another former Sunhawk, is Jodi’s partner and mate. Both are trained as Shin’a’in horsetalkers. Graceless and Hopeless are Jodi’s and Beaker’s trained mounts. Roald is king of Valdemar and Stefanson’s friend. King Stefansen (Oathbreakers) rules Rethwellan. Stef was the brother of Captain Idra.

Oathblood

It’s a tale of students whose parents are determined they’ll learn to survive.

This is the novella and another fun tale with Tarma and Kethry expounding on how they set up rules and how they teach their respective students. It includes short tales about the students as well as a quick back story on how the Shin’a’in split from their original group.

Lackey also includes an interesting bit about revenge and justice, before segueing into a kidnapping. At the very end, there’s a useful statement about parents underestimating the maturity of their children.

The Characters
Jadrie is twelve years old and the first born of Kethry and Jadrek and Tarma’s student. Another child is Jadrek Minor who is one of Kethry’s pupils. Jendar is their latest baby. Devid is the cook.

Justin Twoblade and Ikan Dryvale had been mercenaries then guards and are friends with Kethry and Tarma as well as teachers at their school. Estrel is Justin’s wife and they have a baby, Kethren. Larsh, Hesten, and Belton are more students. Father Mayhew. Tresti is a Healing Priestess. Ah’kela shena Liha’irden is a young shaman.

Kira and Merili, students, are the twin daughters of Archduke Tilden, King Stefan’s former Horsemaster (Oathbreakers). Their mother, Diona, is a former assassin with her own interesting training background. The duke and duchess have a total of six children who are all gifted. Arboli is their eldest daughter — thirteen — and quite the scholar. Prince Albayah is the eldest son of Queen Sursha of Jkatha.

King Stefansen, Char’s and Indra’s brother, rules Rethwellan. Char had been king of Rethwellan. Triune Goddess Priests are annoyed because there is no longer a state religion in Rethwellan.

The Cover and Title

The cover is quite fanciful with its deep teal background and deep golden firebirds flying across it. In front of them are the blonde Kethry wearing a hood and chain across her forehead and a low-cut purple dress, and her right hand raised holding a smoking copper bowl. Below her, on the right, is Tarma with her long black hair under a purple banded-hood, her left arm bent at the elbow and holding a jagged dagger while her right arm is extended behind the wolf-like Warrl and holding an elaborate Need. All the text is in white. At the very top is an info blurb with the author’s name immediately below it and the title immediately beneath that and above Kethry’s head.

The title is about the blood oath sworn between Tarma and Kethry, one of Oathblood, a tradition that continues.

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