Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Evil had cast its shadow over the kingdom of Rethwellan. When Idra, leader of the Sunhawks mercenaries, failed to return from a journey to her home, Tarma and Kethry, warrior and mage, set out in search of their vanished leader.
Thoughts: Remembering my thoughts on Oathbound, the previous novel in the Vows and Honor trilogy, I admit I had some trepidation about this one. Fortunately, I ended up pleasantly surprised. Where the first book of the trilogy was obviously originally a collection of short stories strung together by only a light touch of editing, this book was one long story, complete and full, and therefore much more entertaining and devoid of the problems that I found in Oathbound.
Tarma and Kethry became much more interesting to me in this novel than they were in the previous, and I suspect no small part of that was due to the first book’s sloppy editing. More of their story was revealed and explained in a way that made me want to keep reading instead of frustrating me with tantalyzing hints about a previously-published short story that I didn’t get a chance to see.
I was particularly amused by Tarma’s frustration at Leslac, especially the section that detailed him stating that he would be the man to cure her of her celibacy. Speaking as someone who identifies as asexual (though, I’ll grant you, my asexuality isn’t because of any religious devotion or calling, as Tarma’s is), the “you just need to find the right person” attitude is a very common and annoying reaction that a lot of people have, and I was thrilled to see Tarma be so incensed at Leslac’s presumption.
On the down side, some of the plot elements were not particularly surprising when they were presented. Idra’s fate, I think, is one that I saw coming a mile off.
It also seems that this book was written when Lackey didn’t know where to place it on the Valdemar timeline, because there were another boatload of inconsistancies with the rest of the series. Kethry’s use of magic within Valdemar’s borders, and the matter of who’s ruling Rethwellan clash with facts stated in later Valdemar novels. It’s disappointing when my favourite author can’t keep her own timeline straight, and when inconsistancies have become par for the course, even so early on in the series. I’m not holding those against this particular novel, though; merely against the series as a whole. On its own, or even within its own trilogy, I don’t think I encountered any contradictions. In a wider context, however…
But that won’t stop me from doing what I’ve been doing for years: reading the Valdemar novels and loving them anyway!