Saturday, May 16, 2009

Valdemar 10: Oathblood (Lackey)

Rating: 3
Year: 1998
Genre: Fantasy
Read Again? Eh. Probably not.

The 10th book of Valdemar, the last of the "Vows and Honor" trilogy, with 16 to go. This is a short-story collection, and it answers my comment about the first of the "Vows and Honor" books feeling like a bunch of shorts strung together: it was. One "Oathblood" story ('Turnabout') was already published in "Oathbound."

A quick rundown of titles:

Sword-Sworn (1985): From the night Tarma's Clan was wiped out by bandits to the final fight in which Tarma and her new friend Kethry fight the last of the bandits to the death.

Turnabout (1986): A band of bandits has been terrorizing wagon traffic, stealing anything of value, raping and killing at will. When Tarma and Kethry nab their leader, Kethry puts an illusion spell on him, making him look like the sort of woman he and his men victimized. Then they send him back to his own camp. I skipped reading it this time around. I'm not really sure why Lackey felt the need to have it reprinted here when it's already part of the first book. Guess I'll take a half-point off just for principle.

The Making of a Legend (1990): The Bard who follows Tarma and Kethry around, writing songs about their heroic exploits, has tracked them to a little spot on the map where he hopes they'll be forced into a heroic battle with the local criminal element, who just happen to own the town. He does get his wish....

Keys (1988): Another repeat from "Oathbound." Kethry and Tarma must solve a murder mystery to save an innocent woman's life. Another half-point!

A Woman's Weapon (1992): A dig at industrial pollution and a shady businessman who is poisoning his rival.

The Talisman (1990): Kethry's magic sword leads them to a woman in trouble--but not in the way they've come to expect.

A Tale of Heroes (1987): The sword leads them to a farm near a town where women and children have been eaten by a vicious monster.

Friendly Fire (1993): After a brief stop for supply-shopping, our heroines are beset with the Murphy's Law curse: everything that can go wrong, goes wrong.

Wings of Fire (1991): The death of a shaman leads them deep into the Pelagir Forest, where they find themselves fighting a power-stealing mage.

Spring Plowing at Forst Reach (1998): This short pivots upon one of Lackey's conveniences. The Lord of Forst Reach (Herald Vanyel's ancestral home) has a problem with highly aggressive geldings. He asks for help--and Tarma just happens to have a pair of friends who she trained as "horse whisperers," and they just happen to be looking for jobs.

Oathblood (1998): This novella begins with a day-in-the-life at the Kethry & Tarma School of Magical & Physical Kicking of Ass. No idea if that's its real name, but we should call it something, right? This was what the two were working so hard for in the first two books. It's been something more than ten and something less than twenty years since they started their school; nobles from all over send their precious snowflakes to get a serious education. Two of their students get an early real-life test.

Overall, not nearly as satisfying as the second book. Every one of the shorts feels rushed, and everything works out so convenient, pat & easy that I've just got to give back those half-points for repeating "Turnabout" and "Keys" and take off two solid points for an overlong, boring book with no suspense. Call it the "Superfriends Effect": you know in every episode that the heroes will triumph and that they're never going to be in any trouble they can't simply pop free from and make a crappy joke about it before the end credits.

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