Oathbound, Oathbreakers (Vows and Honor 1 and 2)

This post is part of a week-long series of reviews of Mercedes Lackey novels. See intro post for more information.

Oathbound, Oathbreakers (Vows and Honor 1 and 2)
Mercedes Lackey, 1988, 1989

Premise: Tarma is a Shin'a'in swordswoman whose entire clan was murdered. She became a Goddess-sworn warrior to take vengeance for her people. She joins forces with Kethy, a White Winds mage who also has violence in her past. Kethry is now bonded to a sword which holds a geas to help women in trouble. They soon become sworn sisters, fast friends, and swift death to their enemies.

The first book, Oathbound, is somewhat disjointed, but it's for obvious reasons. It was put together around a handful of short stories that had been previously published. FYI: the story of Tarma and Kethry's first meeting is not reprinted in either of these volumes.

While I enjoyed reading these, I didn't quite love them the way I remember loving them as a teenager. The characters are strong, the plots tangled and interesting, good dialogue, good description, humor and friendship and action, but they're just not quite as compelling as I remembered.

I love the friendship between Tarma and Kethry. There aren't enough battle-comrade friendship stories about women. They are both strong at their respective disciplines, loyal to each other and their principles, and good at balancing each other's weaknesses.

Oathbreakers has a great story, starting off setting up the duo's place in an extraordinary mercenary company, and then expanding into the main plot. As it's the second book, their working relationship is stronger and more set in that one.

What threw me off a little was the amount of sexual violence, spoken about and perpetrated against various characters. It's not gratuitous, or explicitly described, but it surprised me how strong my visceral reaction against it was. Of course, the villains get what is coming to them, sometimes in a rather vindictive way.

(Spoiler: Most notably, halfway through Oathbound, when the protagonists directly implied that they were setting a (male) villain up to be raped and killed. Terrible villain, rapist and muderer, yes, but I was surprised at the “eye for an eye” style viciousness.)

At the same time, I appreciate the righteous fury of Tarma and Kethry as they set out to take vengeance for wrongs against themselves and other women. And those scenes were leavened with other scenes of humor and happiness.

These are strong stories set in an interesting world, with many awesome female characters. I am just more aware of the moral relativism of their world-view than I was at 16. They're still really fun reads.

3 Stars – Good Books


  1. Where did you find the action dolls? They are awesome!

    I have been slowly going through Lackey's old stuff. I haven't got to these two yet, but I look forward to it.

  2. The action figures in this picture are part of my husband's and my extensive collection, specifically they are a recent DC Universe Classics Raven (from Teen Titans) and a 2002 Teela, (from the re-vamp of He-Man). I like to "illustrate" my posts. ;)

    These two books are a hair dated, but I'd go through much worse for such a strong female friendship in a action-fantasy book.


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