Friday, October 4, 2013

Oathblood by Mercedes Lackey

Reviewed by Holly White

Oathblood, the third in the Vows and Honor trilogy, which also includes Oathbound and Oathbreakers, surprised me.  It turned out to be less of a sequel, and more of a series of short stories about Tarma and Kethry.  Not that they are not good short stories, but I was just expecting the next novel-length book in the series. Now that I look back on it, however, I can see that the story was more or less complete at the end of Oathbreakers.  That being said, they were interesting in themselves, and some of them do help to flesh out the story of Tarma and Kethry more.  Some of them were, in fact, short stories taken from the novels I had already read.  Some took place chronologically before, during, and after the novels.  I will give a brief synopsis of each one here, including where the story falls chronologically if I can.

Tarma and Kethry’s story seems to fall into four distinct sections: 
1.    Before they met
2.    After they met and became traveling mercenaries (covered in Oathbound)
3.    When they joined with the mercenary group called Idra’s Sunhawks (covered in Oathbreakers)
4.    When they at last settled down and fulfilled their dream of establishing their training school (hinted at in the ending of Oathbreakers).

“Sword-sworn” takes place before Oathbound.  This one details the near-annihilation of Tarma’s clan, tells how Tarma and Kethry met, and explains what made them decide to become blood-sisters.

All the following stories are set during Oathbound but do not appear as part of the narrative unless noted.

Turn-about”  is part of the Oathbound narrative.  This is the story of how they cleverly stopped the bandits that had been raiding a merchant caravan, and then devised a fitting punishment for the chief of the bandits.

“The Making of a Legend” takes up the story of  Leslac, the pesky minstrel, who had been publicizing Tarma and Kethry’s exploits and altruism without ever having met them.  Leslac spread the word that they would save damsels in distress, but that they deigned to accept mere money in return, much to the detriment of their purse, and to their annoyance.   This story tells what happened when they actually did cross paths.

“Keys” is also a part of  Oathbound.  This tells the story of how Kethry solves a murder mystery in order to save Tarma’s life.

 “A Woman’s Weapon” is the tale of how our heroes prevented a murder from taking place, and turned the tables on the would-be murderer. 

In “The Talisman,” the women defeat a mage who has let power go to her head.

I like “A Tale of Heroes;” it’s one of those romantic stories where, even though you can see how it’s going to end, you still want to read it, because you can see how all of the pieces are going to fit together in the end with a nice little “click.”  It’s very satisfying to read and find out how that comes about.

Friendly Fire” shows how Tarma and Kethry react to a “Murphy’s Law” kind of day.

 The next three stories are set after Oathbreakers and none are included in the book

Wings of Fire” hints at what life is like for the women after their school has been established and tells about a daring rescue our heroes perpetrate with a surprising plot twist.  This story also incorporates Mercedes Lackey’s personal love and admiration for birds of prey.

“Spring Plowing at Forst Reach” is also set during the school years. It tells how they tamed a friend’s horses for spring plowing using a “horse whispering” technique, and how they found steady work for two dear ex-merc friends into the bargain.

“Oathblood” is a longer short story, probably the real sequel to the second book in the series. This story goes into much more detail about life in the training school, and how the women find their place. After being kidnapped by fanatics, two of their young students cleverly use various parts of their training to stay alive.  Tarma and Kethry attempt a rescue with the help of an unexpected ally.

I really enjoyed this book of stories about Tarma and Kethry.  It would also stand well on its own, but again, I always get more out of sequels if I have already come to know and love the characters elsewhere.  If you love Oathbound and Oathbreaker, you will love these as well. The final story "Oathblood," especially, gives a lovely denouement to the climactic ending of Oathbreaker

The next review will be about By the Sword which is a stand-alone novel about Kethry's granddaughter. Look for it the first Friday in November!

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