Oathbound, by Mercedes Lackey

(Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com)

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Tarma witnessed her clan’s murder and, swearing vengeance, became a master warrior. Kethry fled her forced “marriage” and became an adept–pledging her power to the greatest good. When Kethry obtains a magical sword which draws her to others in need, the two vow to avenge the wrongs done to womanhood.

Thoughts: Though I have read almost all of the Velgarth books before, this was actually a new one for me, and I was eager to see what I’d make of it. I am sorry to say that I’m of mixed opinions.

One one hand, you can see that Lackey has advanced rather smoothly in her style in only the short time since publishing her first novel, and it was easier to fall into than, say, Arrows of the Queen.

This book also features Tarma, who is one of the very few human asexual characters I’ve found in fiction who are presented in a positive light. As a person who identifies as asexual myself, finding those rare few role-models is a treat, and this books deserves some praise on that alone. Think it’s hard finding gay or trans role-models in fiction? try looking for an ‘ace’ hero and suddenly finding a gay or trans hero seems like a walk in the park!

On the other hand, this book did suffer from some very noticeable flaws. This book, the first in the Vows and Honour series, takes place after the previous publication of a few short stories involving Tarma and Kethry, including the tale of their meeting and vow-sharing. As a result, you open this book and feel like you’ve come in during the middle of the tale, which doesn’t leave one with a very favourable impression.

The pacing suffered at times, too. This often felt like a collection of short stories that only halfway through turned into a cohesive novel. One quest presented devoted more pages to the character conversing in a common room than it did to one of the characters getting kidnapped by her twisted ex-husband, and the tension there was very difficult to feel. Some plot twists weren’t twisty in the slightest, and sadly, the meat of the story could be seen coming a mile away.

Also in the “it felt like a book of short stories” vein, there was a great deal of repetition. The reader is constantly reminded of the fact that Warrl’s shoulders came up to Tarma’s waist, that Need was a magical sword, and that Kathry had amber-coloured hair. Perfectly fine to remind someone of if they’re reading a collection of stories that were originally published far apart, but as for one book meant to tell a complete story, it got tedious.

Everything being taken into consideration, that isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy reading this book. It definitely had its moments, even if it took a while to really get started. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to those who aren’t already fans of Lackey’s work, I’m still glad I took the time to read it, and nothing will change that.

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