Read again? Yes
Number 17, with 9 left. This is the stand-alone story of Herald Kerowyn.
Kerowyn is 17 (I think--maybe 14, but it's muddled) and dissatisfied with her lot in life. Her mother died when she was young, leaving Kero to manage the household. Her father's a retired mercenary, heartbroken years after losing his wife; he barely notices his daughter, other than to criticize her.
When we join the story, Kero is managing an enormous feast, directing servants and making sure each course is delivered on time--much like an officer in war. Very appropriate.
Her brother is to be married; their father insisted on the feast to impress the new in-laws and the other guests.
The party's interrupted by raiders, who hack and slash their way into the Hall, killing indiscriminately, until they reach the bride-to-be. They snatch her and any valuables they can carry. Kero's father lies dead, her brother badly wounded. There's not a fighter on the property left alive or in fighting condition. Kero realizes that it's up to her to go for help; her grandmother, the famous Kethry (of the "Oath" trilogy) lives a few leagues away, long since retired from teaching magic--maybe she can help!
Kero suits up and rides out--and gets help she doesn't expect: her grandmother's magic sword, Need, speaks for her. Before she realizes what's happened, Kero is back on the road, and on the trail of the raiders. The rescue goes well, the girl in distress is saved...and Kero's life is changed. She learns how to fight from Kethry's partner Tarma (also of the "Oath" trilogy), then goes to work as a mercenary.
Then her Company is hired to help Valdemar fend off the massive army of King Ancar of Hardorn--and her life changes again!
Very good story, not so heavy on the fuss and such. For being nearly 500 pages, the story doesn't drag. We get to see and say goodbye to Kethry and Tarma, we're reminded of a pledge made to Valdemar by the King of Rethwellan decades before. For romance lovers, there's the obligatory meeting of the "other half of my soul" not for one or two but for 6 characters:
Kero gets Chosen
Kero gets her man, Herald Eldan
Prince Daren gets Chosen
Prince Daren gets his woman, Queen Selenay
It's not all peace, love and happiness, though: the war with Hardorn is not won. Ancar will attack again and again until he gets what he wants!