Book Review: The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey

Posted November 17, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Oathbound 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.

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey
Genres: Fantasy
Published by DAW on July 5, 1988
Pages: 304
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 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, Oathblood, Exile's Honor, The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley, Owlflight, Exile’s Valor

First in the Vows & Honor fantasy trilogy for Young Adults and revolving around a woman warrior and a sorceress. The couple focus is on the adventures of Tarma and Kethry and her geased spellsword, Need. It is part of Lackey’s Valdemar universe and is set in Valdemar – 1270 AF (After Founding).

If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Valdemar books on my website.

My Take

It’s a feel-good story with great characters . . . okay, versus some bad guys. Ya gotta have some conflict! Fortunately, the ladies need to make a name for themselves, if Tarma wants to keep her Clan alive, or rather, make it come back to life. Then of course, there’s the need Kethry has to keep moving and help people.

Those necessary adventures range the gamut from easy to those requiring guile to sword skill to magic to all of the above. It’s one long story of short stories, and we hear about them through third person dual protagonist point-of-view from Tamra’s and Kethry’s perspectives. This POV also makes this a primarily character-driven story that requires action — adventure.

It is funny that their style of traveling is more Kethry’s speed than Tarma’s, seeing as how Tarma is more of a wanderer than Kethry.

Some of the things I adore about Lackey’s Valdemar series is the equality between men and women and her promotion of children’s confidence, that the adults have faith in children’s abilities.

It takes a bit for the story’s main plot to come out, and Need is quite helpful, as she “needs” to champion women in trouble.

Tarma and Kethry were so lucky to meet Justin Twoblade and Ikan Dryvale, and I suspect we’ll be seeing more of these two in future stories.

I do like the point the Star-Eyed makes to Kethry, that she’s but one face of Kethry’s own Lady Windborn. And ain’t that the truth for us as well.

The Story

They’ve achieved their common goal, and Tarma and Kethry are at a loss for what to do next with their lives.

It’s with the advice from several people that lead the two women on their course of adventure after adventure.

The Characters

Her entire clan slain by brigands, Tarma shena Tale’sedrin of the Clan Tale’sedrin (Children of the Hawk) of the Shin’a’in, became sword-sworn when she vowed blood revenge on the murderers. Kessira is her Shin’a’in-bred mare. Dharin had been her love. Hellsbane will become Tarma’s battlesteed. Warrl is the kyree who bonds to Tarma.

Born to House Pheregrul, Kethry shena Tale-sedrin, a.k.a. Kethryveris, was sold into a hateful “marriage” by her eight-years-older brother, Kavin, a.k.a. Kavinestral. Tildy had been her old nurse. Rodi is her safe, smart mule. Ironheart will become Kethry’s battlesteed.

Mornedealth is . . .
. . . the town where Kethry was born. The Fifty Families are the noble born of Mornedealth, and there are five factions among the wilder offspring: Blue (led by Kavin), Green (led by Helansevrith), Red, Yellow, and Black. The status-hungry Wethes Goldmarchant was a wealthy banker with a penchant for young girls. Regal is Wethes’ house mage. Jervac is a guard at the gate.

The Broken Sword is an inn owned by Hadell who had once served with Jervac. Lakea is Hadell’s daughter and the stable hand.

Justin Twoblade and Ikan Dryvale are well-qualified mercenaries who make friends with Tarma and Kethry. Gesta is a friend of Dryvale’s, and she has a grudge against Wethes; so does Cat. Jonis Revelath, Ikan’s father, is the legal counsel for half the Fifty.

In Lythecare, Sir Skolte hires Tarma and Kethry to escort Darthela, his flirtatious bride-to-be to his home in Fromish. Viscount Hathkel. In Felwether, Lady Myria is accused of murdering her husband, the cheapskate Lord Corbie. Syrtin is Myria’s newborn son. His seneschal is his bastard brother and right hand man. Katran is one of Myria’s servants. Istan is a torch-bearer. In Delton, Leland is a young sorcerer who accidentally summons Thalhkarsh, one nasty demon. In yet another town, Grumio is one of a group of merchants with a transportation issue. Lena is his missing niece and heir. Tedric is a hired sword Tarma vaguely remembers. Prince Lothar, a.k.a. the Looney, does awful things to bad guys.

Oskar is the host of this tavern. Nemor is the priest of Anatheir of the Purifying Flame who doesn’t believe evil really exists. Brother Thoser is the one who questioned the cursed lady. One-Eye Tham is a beggar.

Clan Liha-irden is . . .
. . . another Shin’a’in clan that helped Tarma after the massacre. Shelana instructs their children in swordwork.

Living and protecting the Dhorisha Plains, Shin’a’in breed their horses for intelligence, agility, strength, and endurance.

The White Winds is . . .
. . . a powerful school of sorcery. Baryl Longarm is one of the guards. Gervase, a hertasi, a.k.a. the Lizard Wizard, became a High Adept. Cinsley became Gervase’s teacher. There is an excellent short story in here that takes me back to events in The Black Gryphon, Mage Wars 1 (1000-1 BF). Melania is one of the teachers.

The Tale’edras are . . .
. . . the Hawkbrothers. Moonsong k’Vala is a Hawkbrother Adept.

Gregoth and his men had slaughtered Clan Tale’sedrin. Osberg had stolen the amber necklace Dharin had given Tarma. Lastel Longknife was the leader of another band of bandits.

Kal’enedral are the Sword Sworn, the Warriors of the Shin’a’in. The Star-Eyed is what the Shin’a’in call their Goddess of the South Wind or the Warrior. She’enedra is an endearment.

There are three types of magic: power from within one’s self, including the mind-magic of Valdemar; power created by living things; and, creatures who are not of this world, such as those from the Abyssal Plane. The Pelagir Hills are notorious for changelings and weird monsters (see the Mage Wars sub series.) Kyree, a Pelagir-style wolf who is human smart with some magic, has three sexes: male, female, and neuter. This last tend to wander off and explore the world.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a weird Art Deco vibe of golden hawks against black and forming the background with Tamra in her black, long locks flying in the wind, and a huge sword raised over her head. In the forefront is a severe-looking Kethry wearing a forehead necklace with five pendants. Her gown appears to be a tapestry style with a fitted upper and flaring skirt. She carries Need in a scabbard on her back. At the top is an info blurb. Starting at Kethry’s waist is a pale purplish pink box framed in purple with text all in black. The title is at the top with the series info below that and the author’s name at the bottom.

The title is the vow that Tarma and Kethry have made and has united them as The Oathbound.

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