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The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey
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Trigger Warning: There are mentions of one of the characters rape that takes place in her past. Nothing too graphic, but there are no warnings for it in any of the blurbs I've seen. It's best for people to be prepared.

Note: This books is a bunch of loosely connected short stories collected into one book. It does not contain the story of Tarma and Kethry's first meeting, Sword Sworn published in the Sword and Sorceresses III Anthology. While this book takes place in the same universe as Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series, it takes place in a different region of the world (the Southern lands). They are just as magical, but we do not encounter any characters from the other series and the tone of these books are different.

Review proper:
This books is a fantastic fun read. I highly recommend it to any fans of fantasy, especially if they are looking for female centric stories with humor and intricate world building on par of Tolkien and GRRM. Though I would hesitate to call this epic fantasy, because it's really more about the story of two women, who are best friends and warriors.

I first read these book as a teenager, after unsuccessfully attempting to slog my way through various high fantasy series. As a teenage girl, and woman of color, I was longing to read about someone like me, while still exploring the concepts and world building of the fantasy genre. In other words, I was bored to death of white man fantasy. Where women were relegated to damsels, canon fodder or sexist jokes. Where there wasn't a single ethnic character, or the supernatural creatures were thinly veiled racist stereotypes ala JarJar Binks.

Enter my foster mother who was tired of my bitching. She slapped down her well worn copies of The Oathbound and Oathbreakers, telling me to shut up and read. To this day I'm so grateful to her for giving me the gift of Mercedes Lackey's books. Even though it has been two decades since I first read these books they still stand as some of the most entertaining and endearing of all the books I own.

If you're looking for books with a woman of color in a lead role, where a female friendship is set center stage and that has a of cheeky sense of humor these books are for you.

This book also has one of the most positive representations of an asexual character I've ever read. The world has gay and lesbian characters who are viewed in a positive light. (In fact, Lackey has a prequel series set in this world, north in the kingdom of Valdemer about a gay man called Valdemar: The Last Herald Mage. Which I highly recommend too).

This is fantasy with a female voice, written to entertain and amuse and it does. ( )
1 vote EinfachMich | Sep 21, 2013 |
Pulp fantasy in the grand old Conan tradition - wizards, demons, supernaturally talented swordsmen... er, swordswomen... well, it's not *quite* Conan. There's a little more rape-revenge to the various adventures than I really care for - more on that in a bit - and this is very clearly an early work of Lackey's style-wise. The writing is supremely unsubtle and the characters, while fun and vivid, spend a lot of time in "As you know, Bob" conversations or having inner dialogues to make tediously explicit every single bit of emotional tension. (The recurring villain is worse - he's basically a cardboard-cutout demon who does awful things simply because they're awful, and the sexual nature of most of them doesn't bear too much thinking about - again, see below.) It's also basically a collection of short stories - a number of the adventures actually were originally written as shorts, and the seams show. All that said, it's still good solid adventure all the way through, and with a heavyhanded and somewhat juvenile but refreshing (for the genre) feminist outlook.

And now a minor rant: I don't always hate rape-revenge fantasies, but I usually find them lazy at best. They tend to strongly imply that rape is the worst possible thing that can happen and a properly independent and powerful woman will drop everything to hunt down and get revenge on her rapist. This can be satisfying, in a gruesome sort of way, but often - and this book is definitely an example - it just seems to reinforce the patriarchal assumptions that a woman is only good for sex and her virginity is the only possession of value. It's a lot better than assuming that rape is just what happens and women should ignore - or, worse, come to enjoy - it, but it's still not really a position I can really get behind. ( )
  JeremyPreacher | Mar 30, 2013 |
Outstanding, extremely enjoyable. ( )
  grundlecat | Mar 15, 2012 |
I can remember Tarma and Kethry's introduction in a short story in the Sword and Sorceress III anthology, and they stood out to me even then. This particular book is more a collection of those early short stories, rather than an integrated novel like the sequel Oathbreakers, but it's not any less of a good read for that. This starts out as one of those hoary rape and revenge plots, but the characterizations lift this book beyond that. These are two of Lackey's most appealing characters, not just individually, but because the books featuring them show them as partners and friends rather than a focus on romance. It's also just plain fun action adventure in the classic sword and sorcery vein. Go read. Makes for a strong introduction to Lackey's works. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 28, 2010 |
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. ( )
  Bibliotropic | Jun 16, 2010 |
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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.
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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.… (more)

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