Vows and Honor: Oathblood by Mercedes Lackey – 4/5 Stars

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey - back cover

The third part in the Vows and Honor omnibus is not a novel, but rather a collection of short stories. Though there are a lot of repeated stories from earlier in the omnibus, there are a lot of new stories too, one reaching back in time to when Tarma met Kethry in Swordsworn after the slaughter of her tribe. There are stories about Leslac the bard, a cup being poisoned, a large bear on the loose, a giant monster that has a town cowed, and a chambermaid being forced into abuse and then on the run for a new life.

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey - back cover

If you’re familiar with Tarma and Kethry’s stories you’ll love the short stories, which combine brutality, morality, adventure, and humour. If you aren’t familiar with the main novels and you’re not sure whether to try them, these short stories give a good indication of what you can expect and I don’t think you’ll leave disappointed.

 

 

Mercedes Lackey’s Website

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Vows and Honor: Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey – 4/5 Stars

In this sequel to The Oathbound, of the Vows and Honor omnibus, Mercedes Lackey focuses on the politics of the lands they are in as much as the characters and this includes raising armies, building loyalties, and seeing the bigger picture of their battle against evil. The enemies weren’t mages or criminals; they were kings. The corrupt deeds of those in power was highlighted.

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey - back cover

The stakes are as high as ever, when leader of the Sunhawks mercenary tribe Idra goes missing. Idra went to see which of her brothers was fit for the throne and so she left the tribe’s camp, but her long absence and lack of communication are unusual, worrying even. The Sunhawks tribe, and especially Idra’s close friends Tarma and Kethry, go to investigate the kingdom and see what they can find out. Under cover of delivering free quality horses to the stable master, they gain access to the kingdom and seek to find a way into the King’s court. They’re looking for the court archivist, whose job it is to record the truth; the library was be-spelled that way. The court archivist is friends with the stable master and is an old man, being both honest and knowledgeable; but first they must earn his trust.

In comparison with The Oathbound, there are more mage battles than sword battles in Oathbreakers. I missed the sword battles Tarma had in The Oathbound. However, we are introduced to the basics of the White Winds magical powers and follow Kethry as she develops these powers to battle against enemies or pit herself against enemy mages and assassins. Wolfish Kyree, Warrl, is as wondrous as ever: subtly shifting form, viciously snapping necks, offering sage advice, and sleeping on the hearth to keep warm. It takes a bit to get into the story. There are descriptions of settings, characters, and situations we aren’t familiar with at first and some of the sub-characters introduced at this time were unremarkable and it confused me a bit.

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey - back cover

At the back of the book there is a selection of poems and language translations. I really liked how the poems summarised the lore and most important issues in the stories. There is a particular poem that resonated with me about Jadrek, the court archivist, and his being stuck in a library studying lore without having the opportunity to live life, while age took its toll; waiting for someone to save him and put him into a situation where he can be useful. Overall, Oathbreakers is a good novel with fascinating characters in a world where you can’t be too prepared.

Mercedes Lackey’s Website

Mercedes Lackey’s Amazon Author Page

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey – 5/5 Stars

THERE ARE MINOR SPOILERS. THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE OATHBOUND ONLY AND NOT OF THE SUBSEQUENT TITLES IN THE OMNIBUS: OATHBREAKERS AND OATHBLOOD.

It’s a sword-and-sorcery about two female partners bonded together under an oath. Tarma is great with a sword and used to the rugged way of life, living from the land and communing with forest spirits. She’s the less attractive or typically feminine of the two, which is the easiest way I can describe her difference to Kethry, the innocent, beautiful, blonde White Winds sorceress who is extremely talented, almost adept, with magic and able to work her feminine charms with success on any man. I think the bond between both of them was romantic as well, and that their planned need for men where romance was concerned was only for reproductive purposes. That was what I understood.

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey - back cover

Anyway, through the story they go through a series of adventures, righting wrongs unto women in a world of medieval male soldiery where women struggle to make it through most days without being abused, physically or sexually. Kethry’s enchanted sword Need not only alerts her to the ‘need’ of women who are in danger, but defends her from physical confrontation. In much a similar way, Tarma develops a bond with a magical beast that complements her abilities and can speak to her telepathically. Some of the adventures involve mercenary work to attack bandits, or they involve solving crimes with a combination of their strengths, listening to locals, and following up on leads. They are on the road because they hope to establish a school where Tarma can teach swords skills and Kethry sorcery, but they also harbour a hope of returning to Tarma’s clan, where they can raise a family and a new clan because we are told Tarma’s old clan was viciously wiped out in prior events.

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey - back cover

Honestly, the entire story was fascinating from start to finish. It’s sword-and-sorcery fantasy of the highest calibre. When the theme of demon summoning was introduced, I almost groaned and Indiana Jones came to mind, but I was wrong: the idea was written about in such a way that brought out the individual evil of the demon Thalhkarsh, who is an unusual demon having left the Abyssal Plans and is intent on maintaining human form to seduce women with his enchanting trickery. His enchantments confused women into enjoying the pleasures he bestowed on them, and he created a cult to boost his power. There were other interesting methods he could use to create cults, involving death or pain too. The illusion tricks of the demon gave me a funny feeling, when they occur to one of the main characters. It made me shudder.

The Oathbound was published in 1988 I think but I recently bought a 2017 published copy that includes an omnibus of three stories including The Oathbound, Oathbreakers, and Oathblood because my old one was falling apart. I’ve already started the sequel Oathbreakers, I was that impressed.

Mercedes Lackey’s Website

Mercedes Lackey’s Amazon Author Page

 

The Banished by Paul Coey – 3/5 Stars

The Banished by Paul Coey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After reading the prequel to the Age of Endings series, The Messenger, where Falnir went through many trials to deliver his message in a world becoming ravaged by ancient monsters from the north, I had to try reading Paul Coey’s The Banished.

When Ruyen is destined to become a defender of all people, symbolised by a special sword, he makes many enemies: the monsters of the Nameless, Maidens, the King of Elsillore, and many other factions. As evil as the monsters of the Nameless are, their ghastly appearance is an expression of their evil. The evil of humanity, however, is subtle and conniving. Ruyen must navigate both types of evil if he is to not only lead people to challenge the Nameless’ invasion of the north, but prevent falling down the same path his predecessor did; to ruin, slaughter, and public hate.

I wanted to learn more about this small honourable man without much influence in court who is chosen by destiny. Ruyen’s predicament was intriguing and the way he found the sword and responded to the trapped situation he was put in made for marvellous reading. You can expect plot, conspiracies, arguments, and assassination attempts. It’s not until the last quarter of the story that the real action begins when the company are captured by bandits, and are on the run. Let me just say that my eyes were glued to the writing at this point and we saw examples of human evil that put the Nameless to shame. I had to know the outcome, and I still wasn’t sure which way events would turn. This was Paul Coey at his best. When The Banished ended, it ended too soon.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy The Banished anywhere near as much as I did The Messenger. The main reason is personal taste and the nature of the story. The beginning was the least interesting. There were too much back-and-forth arguments and legal procedures that made it difficult to make a connection with the characters, and reading it at times did feel like a legal essay. The author led me through too many doors into understanding his world. I needed a bridge to distinctive character voices and personalities, and I needed major plot simplification. There were times at the beginning when these problems didn’t overshadow the writing. For example, I had already made a connection with Falnir and I liked his response to groups when he is confronted regarding his message. Guilt and regret between male and female characters seems to be a theme that brings out tension in the author’s writing and brought out more passion in main character Ruyen and Kalmanec, just as it did with Falnir in The Messenger.

There was a lot positive about The Banished throughout. The writing was extremely good and well-researched. It’s without a doubt that the author knows his fantasy and can construct an authentic world with authentic and believable language and settings. When the author is at his best, or even his worst, you can see his strengths. I suspect the editing polished it so well there were few, if any, mistakes. Paul Coey is one of the great fantasy authors out there, and he takes his fantasy seriously. I’d recommend you try one of his stories and experience it for yourself because it is an ‘experience’.