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By the Sword (Kerowyn's Tale) by…
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Member:GypsyNightfire
Title:By the Sword (Kerowyn's Tale)
Authors:Mercedes Lackey
Info:DAW (1991), Paperback, 496 pages
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By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey (1991)

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English (15)  French (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
One of Lackey's books that take place in the world of Valdemar during the reign of Selenay. This one could be read as a stand alone book but does mention many characters that show up in other books. By the Sword follows Kerowyn from her father's death though her career as a mercenary and Captain of the Skybolts. I would recommend this novel for anyone who has enjoyed other Valdemar stories.
  hailelib | Jun 30, 2013 |
There's no question in my mind that this is the best Valdemar book by far. (It might partly be because Kerowyn is so very much the fantasy heroine I would want to be - tough, practical, supremely competent, and principled, although regrettably straight.) The three sections are very nearly complete stories in themselves, but flow nicely together, keeping the overall pace up by skipping the long boring stretches involved in getting from 15 years old to 35 without losing the feeling of steady character development. Previous Valdemar reading is not really required, but it fits in nicely to the
"modern" story arc and leads into the next trilogy in a number of ways without losing its feeling of completeness.

It's not perfect - the middle section drags a little, in my opinion, the logistics of the main romance feel implausible, and the recurring musing on why good people need to fight is terribly unsubtle and awfully repetitive - but they are relatively minor flaws (especially coming off the comparatively clumsy Arrows trilogy.) It's a very solid book, and probably the first one I would hand to someone interested in Valdemar. ( )
  JeremyPreacher | Mar 30, 2013 |
Mercenary life and fantasy warfare never really interested me that much until I read this book. Why? Because up until that point, so many fantasy novels that I'd read showed either the overblown or the gritty tactics of warfare from the viewpoint of someone who'se brilliant, talented, a star general, and little to no backstory on how he got there. If there was that backstory, it consisted of said leader always having had a talent and getting promotion after promotion within the military with ease.

By the Sword tells a slightly different story. For one thing, the hero of the piece is a heroine, still leading battles with aplomb but with the slight twist on the story by virtue of them being female. Which may be nothing to look twice at by today's standards, but there was less of a focus on heroines back in the early 90s, often unless it was to prove a point. Kerowyn doesn't need to prove a point that she's as good as a man by pointing it out at every turn. She does it by being a competant and talented leader who earns respect rather than demands it.

Secondly, although Kero is said to have a natural aptitude with swordwork and tactics, she still goes through gruelling training to perfect that talent, and what's more, the reader gets to see it. I don't know about anyone else, but I tend to look sideways at pieces like I mentioned before, where the hero is the hero simply because they are, and where little is shown regarding them actually working for and earning the respect and skills that they command.

Internal inconsistancies in this novel as it relates to the rest of the Valdemar novels are, thankfully, at a minimum, which is in no small part due to the fact that the only time it really relates to what happened in other novels is at the beginning when Tarma, Kathry, and Warrl are around, or toward the end when it involves Valdemar and Heralds. It's a good standalone book in the series for that reason.

Though I have to admit, I do find it a bit sad when I can say that it's partly good because the errors are kept low. I love Mercedes Lackey, I really do, but the amount of timeline mistakes made through the series... Do not want.

Stylistically, this book is on par with most of what Lackey was doing at the time. Between then and now, her work still has gone on to be polished, but the feel of By The Sword style is much the same as what you'll find in just about any of her later Valdemar books, which for me, is a good thing. There's a reason that I class these books as the literary equivalent of comfort food. For all their errors and imperfections, I still love them to death, adore the world created and the stories told in it, and wouldn't want to be without them.

As a standlone, this is a book that can be skipped over without missing any major plot points, since some of Kero's backstory is mentioned again in subsequent Valdemar novels. On the other hand, it is a good tale of progression, with good messages about not taking crap from people who are flinging it, about standing up for what you believe in even if others think you're a little nuts, and about not just keeping quiet and accepting what others have decided for you when you're just plain not suited to it. The overall theme is about living your own life and not somebody else's, and that's a theme I can really get behind.

Recommended for fans of the Valdemar/Velgarth novels, for those interested in more of Valdemar's backstory, though I wouldn't recommend starting your journey into Valdemar with this one, since it hints at and mentions far too much that Lackey expects you to already know about Tarma and Kethry. If I hadn't already read the Vows and Honor series, I suspect I'd be frustrated at not getting the full story but instead only getting vague mentions of what came before, especially in the way that they're delivered. ( )
1 vote Bibliotropic | Feb 25, 2011 |
Two series Lackey published early in her career was Vows and Honor, dealing with Tarma and Kethry and the Valdemar series, dealing with Heralds, a police/military force bonded with magical horses. Both series were favorites of mine when I was a decade younger and still hold up now.

Although I think By the Sword could stand alone, I'd read those novels first. The Vows and Honors books are first chronologically speaking and start with The Oathbound. The first Herald Trilogy, begin with Arrows of the Queen and end with Arrows Fall. Arrows Fall overlaps a bit with By the Sword and so would act as a spoiler.

Having loved the other books set in this world, the small roles in this book by the earlier characters such as Tarma, Kethry and Talia was a treat. I found the protagonist, Kerowyn, appealing. I like how this novel dealt with life in a mercenary company and in that way is reminiscent of Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion or the Tarma and Kethry novel, Oathbreakers. By the Sword was an engaging and fun read. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 29, 2010 |
I certainly liked it, but it's not Lackey's best. A lot of it is quite rambling, and while everything still comes together and ties up in a much neater bow than one would think possible, it isn't quite as satisfying as it probably should be. Kerowyn is a protagonist that is easy to identify with (although readers of other Valdemar novels will roll eyes at her stubbornness against going into Valdemar because she thinks she can't POSSIBLY be herself there), and it is written very well as a whole. I do wish there was a map included so I could better follow the travels/battle plans, but I take it as a good sign that I wanted to follow them. :^) ( )
  Alliebadger | Mar 14, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mercedes Lackeyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, Jody A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
While the granddaughter of a mage, Kerowyn grows up mostly ignorant of her heritage. As her brother is being married off at a young age, bandits come in and disrupt the festivities. They carry Kerowyn's future sister-in-law, kill her father, and murder many others on the way out. This inflames Kerowyn, who vows revenge.

Going to put on her brother's cast-off armor and grabbing a dagger, rides to find the bandits. This adventure teaches her that she's not cut out for the life of a noblewoman.
"Not that it mattered. For after her Ride, Kero left her childhood behind forever, in spirit and in fact--to live in her grandmother's tower studying the art of war with Tarma, Kethry's bondsister. And, ultimately, to follow a life's course that would demand all her courage and fighting skill as it let her to a fate she'd never imagined--in the Kingdom of Valdemar."--P. [3] of dusk jacket.
Haiku summary
Kero: merc and more / Sword of Need, fateful night ride / Captain and Herald.

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Granddaughter of a sorceress and daughter of a noble house, Kerowyn had been forced to run the family keep since her mother's untimely death. Now all of her hopes and plans to return to training horses and hunting have been shattered by an attack on her ancestral home, the death of her father, the wounding of her brother and the kidnapping of his fiance.… (more)

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