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The Oathbreaker's Shadow (The Knots Sequence #1)

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  951 ratings  ·  172 reviews
Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world where you tie a knot for every promise that you make. Break that promise and you are scarred for life, and cast out into the desert.

Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one knows where it came from, and which promise of his it symbolises, but he barely thinks about it at all—not since becomin
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 6th 2013 by Random House Children's Publishers (UK) (first published June 4th 2013)
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Community Reviews

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I have only one word to describe The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. Painful. It’s a rare book I would compare to an instrument of torture, but there are so many things wrong with this, between the massive infodumps, the meandering story, the loose plot threads that go nowhere, the poorly thought out magic system, the fast and loose characterizations, the blatant cultural (mis)appropriation, I am not exaggerating when I say I literally felt like I was being tortured every time I read one more agonizing wo ...more
Robin Hobb
I know it is often a part of a fantasy review, but it's so true. An original and unique magic system in a book is like finding a wonderful new spice in a dish. It gives the tale a unique flavor.

This is a tale of friendship and loyalty and betrayal. Of power and outcasts. It's a good solid story. I recommend it.
Fantasy Review Barn

A person’s word is all they have. Never has this been truer than in the world of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. The nomadic group central to the story doesn’t just believe in keeping promises, they enforce it. Each promise made requires a knot to be tied; a magical binding with grave consequences if broken. Before a certain age breaking a promise results in a painful lesson. But lessons are for children and there comes a point where the consequences are much more dire. Breaking a p
3.5 stars - I struggled with the book at first because I was bored with all of the history that McCulloch felt the need to lay out all at once and frustrated with way too many characters for me to keep track of that I had to keep looking back. But the story picked up about the halfway point, and I found myself really liking it. I am, however, frustrated that I still have so many questions, but I am eager for the next one to come out.

First of all, I think the concept is really interesting. Howeve
Stuti (Turmeric isn't your friend. It will fly your ship

This is hurting my head.

Like, giving me an actual migraine. Or what I think a migraine feels like. I've never had one before or I did and I just couldn't identify it. When DOES a headache turn into a migraine? Is there a significant and distinguishable margin, like you coalesce from one range of pain into another much more terrible one? Or is it just more cool to say you've got a migraine? I'm not good at biology. The only thing I've figured out by far is that migraine gives you that weird p
Demitria Lunetta
Recommended for fans of: YA Fantasy

The premise for this fantasy novel is unique and I love the idea that there are real consequences to breaking a promise. You are immediately thrown into Raim’s world, and McCulloch’s world building is fantastic. I also like how severe and unwavering Raim’s society is. They have rules for a reason and breaking those rules means banishment. Even Raim’s status can’t save him. It’s a set up for a fast-paced, suspenseful story.
Apr 09, 2013 Jon marked it as to-read
Shelves: fantasy
When I saw this book's cover, I instantly thought of Jake Gyllenhaal in the movie Prince of Persia!
I really loved The Oathbreaker's Shadow. It really feels like an epic fantasy with a rich and complex world, all without being bogged down by tiresome commentary or exposition. Raim’s world is fully realized without sacrificing the plot’s pacing, the story is exciting and imaginative, and the ending left me wanting to read the next book immediately to find out what happens. The Mongolian influence also sets it apart from other epic fantasy stories. I think it would appeal to fans of George R.R. ...more
Amy McCulloch's "The Oathbreaker's Shadow" sets up as an interesting story and magic system, before going off the rails.

The likeable main character Raim, is training to be a member of the Yun, the elite warriors for the Khan. His best friend, is Khareh, the son of the Khan, but while Raim likes Khareh, he is blind to his implied faults, which McCullouch implies to the reader. Raim and Khareh want to swear oaths to each other when they are of age.

Promises to each other are imbued with power. Whe
Read all my reviews on

On one hand, I wanted to say I haven't quite read a book like this one before. The magic is really complicated and different from usual. On the other hand however, a lot of the critical plot points were not so original at all.

In this clan-based nomadic society promises are for real. For as you break a promise (and thus the knot that binds you to the person you promised to) you'll be tormented by that person's shadow (a piece of their so
Marc Aplin
The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is a book written by one of the country’s most renowned and talented editors, Amy McCullough of Harper Voyager. That’s right; adviser has become applicant in a bold move that surely places a lot of pressure on her shoulders to perform. You see, over the years Amy has worked on books by George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb and Raymond E. Feist, and leads the editing process on work by new and upcoming stars such as Blake Charlton, James Smythe and Janet Edwards too! Her job rev ...more
Kate Ormand
THE OATHBREAKER’S SHADOW is an exciting YA fantasy adventure set in a vivid and fascinating world.

I loved the magic in this novel - the knots and the shadows in particular. In Raim’s world, to make a promise to someone is taken very seriously. So much so that knots are tied between two people to represent the pledge, and if it is broken, the oathbreaker is physically scarred. Once discovered, an oathbreaker is captured and killed, or banished to the desert. Not only that, but they are then haunt
Emma Pass
In Darhan, promises are everything. When you make a vow, it is bound by magic and tied into a promise knot, which you wear until the day you die. Should you break that vow, you become an outcast, scarred and unwanted, doomed to wander the desert where your every move is dogged by a merciless spirit known as a haunt.

Fifteen-year-old Raim has had a promise knot around his wrist since he was born. No-one can tell him why, or what promise was made, but he hardly notices it any more: he’s too busy tr
Stefan Fergus
(Really 4.5*)
I really enjoyed this: the world, characters, magic and the story were great.

There were a couple of minor issues with flow, and maybe a passage here or there which didn't quite work for me, but I am absolutely champing at the bit for book two.

McCulloch's created a world that is very easy to sink in to, and I was hooked from the start. Love the Mongolian-esque feel.

I also have an idea of how Raim will win in the end, but I'm not 100% sure I'm right. Frustrating I'll have to wait so l
In THE OATHBREAKER'S SHADOW, Amy McCulloch develops a fascinating land where promises are bound with string and breaking them makes you an exile, followed by an angry shadow. Raim has had a promise string around his wrist since he was born, and the day he comes of age, he breaks that promise. How can he be forgiven if he does not know who he wronged? Why is his shadow different?

These two questions are a fraction of what drives the plot. There is a lot happening in THE OATHBREAKER'S SHADOW, from
Laura Lam
A wonderful, rich YA epic fantasy with a Mongolian influence with great characters and a message of the value of promises and the consequences of breaking them. Full review/blurb pending.
Initial thoughts: 4-5 stars. Fantastic debut for author Amy McColloch. Loved the world, the characters, the story. Suitable for middle grades and up. Well done.

The review: I really enjoyed The Oathkeeper’s Shadow. Right away, I was transported to a world where one’s word carries a lot of weight. No broken promises here. A broken oath is a heinous crime and the oathbreaker is subjected to either death or excommunication.
In addition, an oathbreaker is followed by a shadow, usually the spirit of a
Amy McCulloch has created a very interesting world where promises made have much higher consequences than we are used to. Promises are made by tying knots and if your break your word you are not only scarred for life but also followed around by a shadow that shows the whole world you are an oathbreaker. Oathbreaker's are ostracised by the rest of society and forced out into the desert alone as exiles. If they manage to survive the journey there is one place they can go but they will never be all ...more
Ornella (Nyx)
2.5 Stars

I was so excited to read this book. It has such a unique concept and setting, so I was all pumped to start reading. Not 10 chapters later I was already struggling to keep going...

I don't even know what was really the problem. Yes the pace was really slow at the start (Read 80%) but it's not like nothing at all was happening. The writing was excellent and Raim was alright for the most part. I guess it was just a combination of all the little things that started bothering me.

The slow paci
Kat's Review

I love supporting Canadian authors, so I jumped at the chance to review a copy of this book. The cover is incredible, and the synopsis intrigued me. It sounded like such an adventurous story, the type I would want my sons to read when they're old enough.

Ms. McCulloch builds a complex world that requires quite a bit of investment on the part of the reader, particularly for the first third of the book. This could get a bit tedious for some readers, but I think that it makes sense as t
Lu (Sugar & Snark)
What if there was a way that all your promises could be kept, that if anyone broke a promise they made to you, you would know? What if the person that betrays your trust would be haunted by your ‘haunt’ for the rest of their lives and even get an ugly scar in the process? Would you do it? Would you be ok with them being exiled out of the community? If yes, then let me ask you this: What if you made a promise you couldn’t remember and at anytime you could break it? Would you want to live in a wor ...more
Liz Jager
I loved The Oathbreaker's Shadow. The world is rich and evocative and the way it's described made it feel lovely and real. Raim is a great main character and I enjoyed his character growth right from the beginning of the book to the last page - it left me wanting more! The bad guy was just duplicitous enough to make me dislike him intensely and yet admire him for playing the people around him so well. I think Ms. McCulloch has done something really special here - there are hints of Robin Hobb an ...more
Polly Holyoke
This was such a great read. If you like richly imagined worlds and epic fantasy, you should give THE OATHBREAKER'S SHADOW a try. I've read so much in this genre over the years, and many books seem like Tolkien derivatives to me. But this one forges new ground with such a fresh and clever premise based on the importance of keeping and breaking oaths. I'm only sorry I have to wait for the sequel!

An exciting debut that mixed several fantasy tropes but with a unique magic system and a desert landscape managed to enthrall me thoroughly. A debut that is very indicative of the author's imagination and I'll be very much excited for the sequel.
Melissa Landers
A richly detailed YA fantasy with a heroic, sympathetic hero we can cheer for. Excellent world building! Well done, Amy!
Zanib  Sajjad
I picked up this book because it is one of the ten White Pine books of 2015. It is also my first White Pine read of the year because I thought the premise was rather intriguing, and even now I think so; but the story could have been better executed.

Raim is a Yun apprentice and he is about to become a full Yun guard, which is a very respectable and powerful position to be in. But of course, things go wrong. In the land of Darhan, promises are highly revered, and if broken, the Oathbreaker is exil
Originally on The Fictional Reader

I requested this book on Netgalley immediately after reading the synopsis. When I got approved, I was so excited! The premise sounds amazing to me and I had quite high expectations by then. I must say that I was not disappointed.

In the beginning of the novel, I was quite confused. There were a number of names of people, places and tribes and I didn’t really know anything about the world beforehand. So all the names that were thrown at me dazed me a bit. The firs
I loved this book. I love the concept of using magic to bind promises. I love the idea of being literally bound to your word with the knots. I found the setting very interesting. The characters were a little stiff at times, but this could be excused because of the extremely formal culture they were in. I think the haunts of the oathbreakers are fascinating, especially once we learn more about them. There's good foreshadowing, symbolism, world building.... everything I demand from a fantasy story ...more
Serendipity Reviews
Originally published at
I was excited about this book from the first time I heard about it and I was really pleased it didn’t let me down. This is an extremely well written, evenly paced action novel that engulfs you and transports you to a world of fantasy. I can’t believe how quickly I was lost in the story. The premise just blew me away. The idea of promise knots that can be broken to cause someone a life time of misery is just outstanding. Two people make a promis
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Amy McCulloch is a Canadian living in London, who fits writing around work as a Editorial Director at one of the UK's leading children's publishers.

She was bitten by the travel bug at an early age while accompanying her parents on buying trips around the world for their oriental carpet business. It was this love of travel that inspired her to set a novel in a hot, desert location (moving to freez
More about Amy McCulloch...

Other Books in the Series

The Knots Sequence (2 books)
  • The Shadow's Curse (The Knots Duology, #2)
The Shadow's Curse (The Knots Duology, #2)

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