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.
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.
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.