Vows and Honor: Book I: The Oathbound
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Published By: DAW Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Ever since a friend of mine got me started on Mercedes Lackey's series of books set in and around the kingdom of Valdemar, I've been hooked. I love Mercedes Lackey's descriptiveness, plot twists and character development, interaction and dialogue, but I've only stuck to the Valdemar series - she has quite a few other series out there. At first glance, Vows and Honor: Book I: The Oathbound doesn't even seem like a part of the Valdemar series, but as one reads further, they realize the importance of this book to the rest of the series.
The events of Vows and Honor take place some time after The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, The Collegium Chronicles and Brightly Burning and before Exile's Honor. It features two very different individuals, Tarma and Kethry, blood sworn to each other to carry on a fight against evil. Tarma comes from the Shin'a'in Clan of the Hawk and was quite content in her life with her nomadic clan until they were slaughtered by brigands. She became a sword-sworn warrior for the Goddess of the South Wind, vowing allegiance to none other than she and revenge on those who destroyed her clan. Kethry was a former noble sold into marriage by her brother to protect his station. Fleeing the marriage, she came to the sanctuary of the sorcery school known as the White Winds. There, she developed her talents of magic, honing her skills to fight for good. With the help of a magical sword named Need, Kethry is a powerful adept whose vow is to protect women in peril.
Together, the two set out to find Tarma's Shin'a'in brethren in hopes of rebuilding her clan. Unfortunately, once they arrive, the two realize that their journey lies on a different path. Tarma still wants to rebuild her clan, but she also wants to aide Kethry in realizing her dream of starting a school of sorcery of her own. To accomplish both their goals, Tarma and Kethry will need money and in order to get the kind of money needed for their goals, they will need to make a name for themselves. This novel begins the tale of how Tarma and Kethry work together to achieve their goals, never forgetting their oath to each other and all the while exorcising the demons that have haunted them along the way.
Although seeming to be a story unto itself, after a couple of chapters one realizes that this tale ties in to many others in the Valdemar series. First, there is Kethry's sword, Need, which we see later in By the Sword and again in The Mage Winds Trilogy. Kethry and Tarma also make their presences known in these novels. The Hawkbrothers, as seen in The Last Herald Mage Trilogy and The Mage Winds Trilogy, make their appearance in this novel as well. Kethry and Tarma discuss the mind magic practiced in Valdemar and we see it in action as used by one of their enemies.
The Oathbound is a tale of the strength of the bonds of friendship and sisterhood. The bonds are tested and bend a bit along the way, but never truly break. The two value one another and would probably remain as close as ever if they had never made the blood-oath. Their styles complement one another well - Kethry is fair of appearance and more patient while Tarma is dark of complexion and hair and quicker to anger. Throughout their various adventures, the two learn how to use their assets to complement one another in battle as well as in rest. They learn that the way of the sword and the way of magic are not the only resources available to them - cleverness and patience are key to success. Tarma and Kethry work together through wit, magic and swordplay to battle their own demons and demons plaguing others.
I loved the bond of friendship and the dialogue between these characters. As usual, Mercedes Lackey has created very strong female characters who don't simply rely on their own strengths, but on the strengths of each other to get them through whatever mishaps life throws at them. Each adventure in this novel strengthens their bonds and teaches them something new about each other. The final adventure is full of twists and turns and the ending is definitely not clean cut.
My only problem - and it was a big one - is the multitude of typos found in this novel. With a copyright date of 1988, I hope that these errors have been corrected in later reprints. They sincerely take away from the flow of the novel. Even the title of the novel has a mistake in it, leading one to believe that the series is actually titled The Oathbound and that Book I is Vows and Honor. I have never seen so many errors in one Mercedes Lackey novel and hope that the rest of the series is not as typo-ridden.
For I do plan on reading the rest of the series. I have to know how things turn out for Tarma and Kethry. Well, I actually do know how things turn out having read novels that take place after this series, but the fun is in learning how the characters get there and I can't wait to read what other adventures Mercedes Lackey has in store for these two. The Oathbound is a great way to start off this series. I can't wait to check out Oathbreakers...an ominous title at that!