Saturday, April 25, 2009

Valdemar 09: Oathbreakers (Lackey)

Rating: 4
Year: 1989
Genre: Fantasy
Read again? Yes

Book number 9, second in the "Vows and Honor" trilogy, and 18 left.

Tarma and Kethry have been with Idra's Sunhawks, a mercenary company, for two years--all part of their continuing mission to accrue a reputation, make some money, and get themselves set up with a place where they can establish a school for fighting and mage-craft. Tarma's the head of the scouts; Kethry's managing the mages and Healers.

The Hawks and the other merc companies on their side of a messy succession dispute are working to quickly bring the fighting to an end. As soon as the stalemate is settled, Captain Idra announces that she must leave. Her father, the King of Rethwellan, has died, leaving a muddled succession of his own. Idra will be the one to give the nod to the rightful heir--but she doesn't yet know which of her brothers will make a good king for the country.

Several months pass--the last two with no word from Idra. Tarma and Kethry ride north from the Sunhawks' winter quarters to find out what happened to their Captain. What they find will shake Rethwellan to its core once the truth comes forth--and will bring the Sunhawks in all their fury to see justice done!

This is a damn good story, probably my favorite of all the books, and it's good to read another one that I haven't found much to complain about at length. Lackey keeps it tight, and once again I have to wonder if her later books are so hefty because she lost her grip on just telling the story.

Unlike its predecessor, "Oathbreakers" has more of an all-in-one feel; the first book felt like a series of short stories strung together. That's not a bad thing, mind you, given that "Oathbound" was such a good read. There's one truly glaring bit of convenience, though. There's a setup conversation on page 187 in which a pair of supporting characters are discussing a bad-guy magical critter. The guy who knows about these critters mentions that there's only one way to defeat it (throwing a handful of a mixture of salt, moly, and Lady's Star into its mouth and eyes). He goes on to mention that ever since he heard about these mage-made things, he's carried a pouch of the killer remedy with him everywhere. Then, on page 203, damned if the bad-guy mage Kethry is fighting doesn't cheat and manifest exactly that critter. Good thing the guy who knows was with her and Tarma, huh? Got to take a point off just because the setup was so obvious and so close to the plot point it was setting up. Stuff like that just mars what is otherwise good storytelling.

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