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The Oathbound (Valdemar: Vows and Honor #1)

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,949 Ratings  ·  155 Reviews
Tarma witnessed her clan's murder and, swearing vengeance, became a master warrior. Kethry fled her forced "marriage" and became an adept--pledging her power to the greatest good. When Kethry obtains a magical sword which draws her to others in need, the two vow to avenge the wrongs done to womanhood.
Mass Market Paperback, 302 pages
Published July 5th 1988 by DAW
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 16, 2013 Jeanne rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Mulan, Fans of Warrior Women, Feminists, YA Fantasy Fans, Fans of Strong Female characters
Trigger Warning: There are mentions of one of the characters rape that takes place in her past. Nothing too graphic, but there are no warnings for it in any of the blurbs I've seen. It's best for people to be prepared.

Note: This books is a bunch of loosely connected short stories collected into one book. It does not contain the story of Tarma and Kethry's first meeting, Sword Sworn published in the Sword and Sorceresses III Anthology. While this book takes place in the same universe as Lackey's
Apr 11, 2009 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, non-earth
I will say this -- my favorite aspects of Vows and Honor duology/trilogy/whatever is that the main relationship is between two women and is platonic*. The Oathbound is about two women, Kethry, who used to be a noble of a poverty-stricken house, but after her brother practically sold her into marriage, she took up the path of the mage, and Tarma, a swordswoman from a Nomadic Horse Clan, who became a servant of her peoples' Goddess in order to get revenge on her clan's murder. The two became partn ...more
At the time I first read it, this was the first Mercedes Lackey book set on Velgarth I'd come across. I would later pick up Arrows of the Queen, but at that point all I'd read of her work was the Bardic Voices series - which I'd quite enjoyed.

As introductions to fantasy worlds go, this is by and large a good one. The characters of Tarma and Kethry remain some of my favorites in any Lackey book. (Kethry's granddaughter Kerowyn is probably my ultimate fave.) They're dynamic and engaging, have an i
Oct 10, 2010 Kathleen rated it liked it
While it is rare for a Valdemar novel, the magically bound best friends in this book are both human. Yes, there is a magically talking dog, but he's completely tertiary, and the horses can't talk at all. This trilogy follows the adventures of a mage and a nomadic warrior--both women who've been done wrong by the world--as they right wrongs and fight demons.

This book was actually a little less girl-powerful than I was expecting. Tarma--the nomadic swordswoman--is taught by spirits who seem to be
Jan 11, 2010 Chuck rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since I've pretty much run out of Marion Zimmer Bradley titles, I thought I'd try Lackey, who collaborated with Bradley on a book.

I have to say that, overall, I liked this book; I really am intrigued by its two main characters, Tarma and Kethry. Lackey's "world" is, as is most fantasy, a medieval type culture. Tarma is one of the Plains people; Kethry is kind of a Paladin, a warrior with magic powers who is honor bound to do good.

My reservations are that the book is episodic; you can tell that t
George Straatman
Feb 15, 2010 George Straatman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oathbound is my first foray into the writing of Mercedes Lackey. If I was to characterize this novel, I would say that it was a competently executed, workman-like piece of fantasy fiction. The story wouldn’t be described as epic in scope and I think Ms. Lackey never intended that it should…the parameters of this story are fairly narrow. The two main characters…Tarma and Kethry…are engaging enough, but not overly memorable. If the depiction of men in this novel is any reflection of the author’s v ...more
Jeffe Kennedy
Jan 26, 2016 Jeffe Kennedy rated it it was amazing
I'm heavy into RITA award reading now and can't share those books, so I'm doing a bit more of my #readinghistory! I loved this whole series, but Tarma made a huge impression on me, back in the day. She started my interest in a true warrior woman.
Jess Hale
Mar 05, 2016 Jess Hale rated it liked it
This book is essentially a collection of short stories about the warrior Tarma and her blood sister, the sorceress Kethey.

It suffers from missing the first story about the pair telling how they met, and from the fact that later chapters are neither fish nor fowl when it comes to being short stories or a novel. There is an ongoing thread of story in their battle against a demon, but it isn't solidly plotted as a whole novel. The tales also aren't as self-contained and distinct enough to be good
Jan 19, 2016 Kathleen rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, reread, 2016
Oh Jesus, did this book ever get visited by the Squick Fairy. Actually most of Mercedes Lackey's books seem to have done that for me, alas. I still like it for reasons that are about to come up, but now it makes me cringe, blah.

Oathbound and its sequel Oathbreakers comprise the story of Tarma and Kethry, who more or less personify the sword-and-sorcery genre. Tarma, our swordswoman, is Shin'a'in and the last of her clan, which is a Big Deal: she became what is essentially a priest to avenge her
Apr 29, 2015 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were a good many things about this book that I enjoyed but it had a couple glaring problems for me. One is a sort of glossing over of sexual violence, women are raped left and right in this book, very casually, and our main characters seem to get over it rather quickly and easily when they themselves are assaulted brutally...squicks me out. The other thing that other reviewers have mentioned is the storyline of turning a man into a woman as doesn't read so bad at first, Lac ...more
Feb 01, 2015 TheCosyDragon rated it it was amazing
This review has been crossposted from my blog at The Cosy Dragon . Please head there for more in-depth reviews by me, which appear on a timely schedule.

Tarma and Kethry are unlikely companions, mage and warrior. Bound together to go against bandits, they've stuck together to get Tarma home to the plains to claim her birthright. There's plenty in the way before the can fulfill that though.

It would have been nice to have a little more backstory from both Tarma and Kethry. Nevertheless, the bit you
Laurel Flynn
Apr 11, 2015 Laurel Flynn rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
First, this is not the place to start reading the stories of Tarma and Kethry, Mercedes Lackey's legendary Swordswoman and Mage from the world of Valdemar. Second, this book is not a novel but rather a group of related novelettes, some of which saw prior publication in magazines and anthologies. Three of the chapters appear in their previous form in Oathblood (more about that in my review of this later volume). Pick up Oathblood and read "Sword-Sworn" first: this story is the tale of how Tarma a ...more
Aug 24, 2012 Amy added it
I don't read a lot of short stories, but I really liked this collection. Tarma and Kethry are well thought out, engaging, strong characters.

The stories are a good addition to Valdemar lore - they provide some excellent background on Shin'a'in culture.

Highly recommended for anyone wanting to read some fantasy lore - especially for those who are already Mercedes Lackey fans.
Sep 25, 2014 ♥Xeni♥ rated it it was amazing
2014 reread:

You can definitely tell that these were short stories formerly published in the S&S magazine. They have that detached-but-connected feel to them. Still, excellent tales! It's lovely to see that Mercedes Lackey was already writing so well so early in her career.


First read: approx 2009
May 16, 2015 Brittany rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
I have mixed feelings about this book.

First of all, the story jumps right in after the two main characters have met and if you want to first read how Tamra lost her clan, became Sworn, then met Kethry, and how they became blood-sisters you have to first read the 58 page short story Sword Sworn. Otherwise you really start to feel like you've missed something important.

The storyline was choppy and sometimes felt repetitive. It often seemed like the book was originally supposed to be a collection
Jan 19, 2014 Meagan rated it liked it
For some reason, this Valdemar trilogy has never been one of my favorites. It has all the makings of something I would like, though, magic, intrigues, and kickass ladies fighting in a man's world and protecting women. The episodic nature makes it rather choppy, and in one or two cases the exciting part is glossed over by a scant paragraph or two so that the characters can travel down the road more. The overarching plot isn't introduced until at least halfway through the book, and then it is fill ...more
Jo Oehrlein
Mar 09, 2015 Jo Oehrlein rated it liked it
Felt more like a set of interconnected short stories than a novel.

Doesn't help that the Tarma & Kethry story began in another short story collection and that short story isn't duplicated here.

The book should have a major trigger warning on it for rape. It's definitely a recurring theme.

In the beginning, they discourage people from saying Thalhkarsh's name, but by the end they're using the name repeatedly in telling the story. Is this natural that people just relax over time or an inconsisten
Debra Meyer
Aug 19, 2015 Debra Meyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since the narrator of this book was so horrid I had to find an ebook and finally managed to get one and read it. This book kind of knocked me for a loop as it was really quite different then the other Valldemar books, very dark and nasty side to it that was hard to read, especially if you have suffered from that area in your own life. It should have come with a warning IMHO but oh well it was still a good book and hopefully the rest of this mini series of the mega series doesn't keep going to th ...more
May 25, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Needs more Warrl.
Mar 22, 2016 Ashley rated it it was ok
I actually first read this book wayyyy back when I was in high school I think, so this is technically a re-read. I came away fairly disappointed. While I loved the idea of girl power and the strong relationship between the two oath-sisters, there was way too much casual reference to rape. Not only was it casually used as a plot device, the psychological and physical after-effects were downplayed and magically healed. When I first read Mercedes Lackey, I don't remember noticing all of the rape sc ...more
Jun 07, 2016 Verechnaya rated it did not like it
Shelves: rape-culture, fantasy
I don't know why I went into this book believing it to have a feminist vibe— albeit some 70s first wave feminism, complete with slut shamey, creepy fetichistic and essentialist vibes, as well as the good ol' rape, which the author uses and... Well, you know the rest.

Warning : spoilers ahead.

And boy is this book rapey. Both of the characters are raped in their childhood, which sets both of them onto their path of warriorhood, and on the path of this book's disgusting relationship with womanhood a
Nicole N.
Feb 12, 2016 Nicole N. rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, girl-power
I did not read the story that first introduced dark-skinned, asexual, but fierce Tarma, swordswoman and the wildly beautiful and lovely Kerthy, sorceress and mage. Regardless, I was able to enjoy the first book of the "Vows and Honor" series despite there being a few hiccups along the way. This book began in the middle of action and filled in a bit of what happened to Tarma and Kethry to make them such fierce friends. They are oathsworn by Tarma's Goddess, a bond not easily broken but a bond so ...more
Sep 03, 2014 Serena rated it it was amazing
It may interest those who have read this book to know that Mercedes Lackey also put out a cassette/CD of the same name. You can sample some of the songs on YouTube, although the only place to buy it is from the Firebird Arts and Music website.

Lover’s Untrue
Hawk on the Wing (aka Tale'sedrin)

Lizard Dreams
(Shin'a'in) Song of the Seasons
Snow Beast
(Shin'a'in) War Song
Gift of Amber
Wind’s Four Quarters
Advice to Young Mages/Magicians
Price of Command
Jun 20, 2014 Kendra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody who likes strong women, Sword & Sorcery, very good writing
I am a very big fan of Mercedes Lackey, and with rare exceptions, I have really enjoyed reading her books. That said, the Vows & Honor books stand out as two of my all time favorites. The story is well paced, the characters are well fleshed and the language flows wonderfully. This series is one of those that I recommend to everyone.

This is the first book of the two book set. It is about the adventures of two mercenaries named Tarma and Kethry. The beginnings of Tarma's and Kethry's stories
Shelton TRL
Nov 19, 2012 Shelton TRL rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
World-building; Fast-paced; Atmospheric.

Adult/ YA audience. Mature themes including rape, rape of a child, abuse. Wonderful tale in the sword and sorcery fantasy style. Book has funny moments woven in but is slanted towards a female readership. Two female protagonists have each been abused and wronged by males and are now serving as defenders of wronged women everywhere. There is another novel and a collection of short stories in this series, plus it ties in with Mercedes Lackey's very popular V
Ward Bond
Nov 01, 2014 Ward Bond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The Swordswoman: She was Tarma. Born to the Clan of the Hawk of the nomadic Shin'a'in people she saw her entire clan slain by brigands. Vowing blood revenge upon the murderers, she became one of the sword-sworn, the most elite of all warriors. And trained in all forms of death-dealing combat, she took the road in search of her enemies.... And the Sorceress: She was Kethry. Born to a noble house, sold into a hateful "marriage," she fled life's harshness for the sanctuary of the White Winds, a pow

Jul 12, 2012 Jess rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Hardcore fantasy fans and hardcore Lackey fans
Shelves: fantasy
I wanted to like this book so bad! It has everything I usually go for in a novel- fantasy setting, awesome lady fighters, and all around bad-assery. But I was sorely disappointed with this messily-arranged hodgepodge of short stories that retell the same tale, abandon interesting plots, and do nothing to keep the reader enthralled. I actually stopped reading with about 40 pages to go, because I was sick of pretending to enjoy it and I knew I wasn't going to miss anything.

This novel takes place a
Jan 22, 2016 Jen rated it liked it
After a re-read many years following my first foray into this series, Tarma and Kethry still hold up. While their story isn't anything new or innovative in terms of the fantasy genre, their relationship certainly is. Tarma and Kethry's partnership is a constant undercurrent, from their disagreements to their brilliant moments of cooperation, and it's really that which makes this book satisfying. Kethry, a physically beautiful, gently born Mage-in-training is the antithesis of Tarma - a strong sw ...more
Jan 22, 2013 Jordan rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, own
Okay, uh, not really sure how I feel about this book. Definitely some mixed feelings. I'll start with the good. I really liked the characters; both Tarma and Kethry were interesting. They were an odd pairing to see together, one being a mage of noble birth and the other a nomadic warrior. Their developing friendship was really enjoyable to read. Although I had to try not to choke on my drink and roll my eyes every time Tarma called Kethry sweetling or any similarly weird pet name. And the side c ...more
J’avoue ne pas être beaucoup plus convaincue qu’avec Les Flèches de la reine. J’ai trouvé que la narration manquait de cohérence, on dirait que l’auteur s’est amusée à tester différentes techniques narratives : d’abord un récit chronologique, puis un bond en avant pour une nouvelle séquence de l’histoire, un autre avec en parallèle une chanson de barde qui a été écrite à la suite des évènements décrits (je n’ai vraiment compris qu’au du passage), une nouvelle séquence un peu style policier : on ...more
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Mercedes entered this world on June 24, 1950, in Chicago, had a normal childhood and graduated from Purdue University in 1972. During the late 70's she worked as an artist's model and then went into the computer programming field, ending up with American Airlines in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In addition to her fantasy writing, she has written lyrics for and recorded nearly fifty songs for Firebird Arts &am ...more
More about Mercedes Lackey...

Other Books in the Series

Valdemar: Vows and Honor (3 books)
  • Oathbreakers (Valdemar: Vows and Honor, #2)
  • Oathblood (Valdemar: Vows and Honor, #3)

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“Do you know the kind of things that live up there?...things without names 'cause no one who's seen 'em has lived long enough to give them any name besides 'AAAARG!” 44 likes
“And the nightmare-monster of her childhood revealed itself to be a thing of old clothes stuffed with straw.” 2 likes
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