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The Oathbound (Valdemar: Vows and Honor #1)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  9,308 ratings  ·  131 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.
ebook, Open Ebook, 304 pages
Published July 5th 1988 by Daw Books
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Apr 16, 2013 Jeanne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
George Straatman
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
Rosemarie  Herbert
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
Nicole N.
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
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.
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anybody who likes strong women, Sword & Sorcery, very good writing
Shelves: keepers
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
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

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 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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 ¾ du passage), une nouvelle séquence un peu style policier : o ...more
Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series provides one of the cornerstones of my reading history. After discovering her when quite young, I still follow new additions to the series - nearly twenty years later! I read and re-read these books over and over again throughout my youth, but I haven't re-read this series in its entirety in a long time - and never as an adult. There are some new books added to the series since the last time I read them, so this re-reading project is pretty exciting for me since ...more
J.C. Hart
I was only a few pages in when I first thought that I wasn't going to enjoy the book - there seemed to be a situation placed within the text for the sole purpose of giving the reader a large chunk of information. Typically this kind of info dump turns me right off, but I read on and found myself becoming really engaged with the characters and the story unfolding before me. It's not that there is anything particular unique or revolutionary about the characters or world, but the author does a grea ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremy Preacher
Pulp fantasy in the grand old Conan tradition - wizards, demons, supernaturally talented swordsmen... er, swordswomen... well, it's not *quite* Conan. There's a little more rape-revenge to the various adventures than I really care for - more on that in a bit - and this is very clearly an early work of Lackey's style-wise. The writing is supremely unsubtle and the characters, while fun and vivid, spend a lot of time in "As you know, Bob" conversations or having inner dialogues to make tediously e ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Um, wow. How did I not read this until now? This book is EXACTLY what I would write if I could write and wanted to write a fantasy novel with a feminist twist.

Maybe I've been reading male-written fantasy for too long, but it was so incredibly refreshing to have two strong, female characters: characters who loved each other, themselves, and fighting injustice. It was like a superhero story in fantasy novel form. Sure, it was a bit unrealistic. And sure, it took itself SUPER seriously. But I finis
Michelle ♣ Ndayeni
Tarma and Kethry are two of Lackey's more memorable characters, conceived in a time when sword and sorcery was one of the popular flavors within the fantasy genre. They were first given life in short stories that were published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthologies, and a few of those stories have been incorporated into this novel. As such, this book tends to be slightly episodic in nature, particularly through the central portion of it, and it's fairly evident where a few o ...more
Nancy Bandusky
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Oathbound was always one of my favorite books by Mercedes Lackey..or, well, it's the set-up for one of my favorite books, The Oathbreakers. My husband and I used this as the 'car book' for a couple of months, reading a chapter or so aloud whenever we were driving somewhere.

It was good for that -- the first half of the book is kind of one story, and the second half is kind of a series of short stories. Consequently, there was a ton of 'refreshing' on the subject at hand that wasn't really nec
It really baffles me that this book is rated so well. I found it just... slightly amateur, as if the author had not really practiced her writing much before publishing The Oathbound. It's not entirely bad, definitely readable, yet nothing but that. I'm afraid talented 13-year-olds write pretty much like that.

The composition of the story is rather chaotic - many ideas and attempts to prove various points with random events. Sorry. Not. Working. Characters are rather shallow, but Lackey tries to c
Not a bad book if you come into it expecting a serial setup. There is technically an overarching plot, but probably three quarters of the book is Kethry and Tarma going on random quests.

I mean I do like the characters well enough. Though I wish Tarma was legit asexual and not "This magic lets me resist the temptation but ooooh hot demon guy." *sigh*
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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 & ...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)
Arrows of the Queen (Heralds of Valdemar, #1) Magic's Pawn (Valdemar: Last Herald-Mage #1) By the Sword (Valdemar: Kerowyn's Tale, #1) Magic's Price (Valdemar: Last Herald-Mage #3) Magic's Promise (Valdemar: Last Herald-Mage #2)

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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!” 41 likes
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