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The Oathbreaker's Shadow

(The Knots Sequence #1)

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,360 ratings  ·  199 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 s
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 6th 2013 by Random House Children's Publishers (UK) (first published June 4th 2013)
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Simone No, there is no swearing or sex.
Sola is the name of their god, so there is some fictional blasphemy in some sections.

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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  1,360 ratings  ·  199 reviews

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Jun 10, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 word of t ...more
Robin Hobb
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 interes
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. Breakin
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 pin-in-your-brains-
This is a rough book to fairly rate, but my review falls somewhere on the lower side of the 3-star range. It's just that this book is all over the place, and that makes it hard to really 100% comprehend everything that's laid out. McCulloch should get credit for creating a magic system that is actually fascinating. The concept of promise knots, and the events that unfold if you break one, are solidly interesting. The execution and explanation of this magic system? Not so much. For as long as it ...more
Demitria Lunetta
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Marc Aplin
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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 wit
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Stefan Fergus
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
(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
Emma Pass
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 23, 2014 rated it liked it
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 soul) and exiled. So, bet
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 S
Kate Ormand
An exciting YA fantasy adventure set in a vivid and fascinating world. I loved the magic in this novel. I’d recommended to fans of Zoë Marriott.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: diversity, fantasy
Wow. That was a wild ride.
Review to come.
Laura Lam
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
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 allowed to r ...more
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 an ancestor who na
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 bo
Kylara Jensen
2.5 Stars
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I really have to admit that I probably gave it more credit/rated it higher because I REALLY like desert fantasy books.

I thought the world-building is better than the story/characters. But really it's the writing that is probably the worst element.

The info-dumping is very confusing. She tries so hard not to info dump-- to put the info in story related ideas but it's just so disjointed and confusing. Once the action
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it

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
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lucky-13s
A richly detailed YA fantasy with a heroic, sympathetic hero we can cheer for. Excellent world building! Well done, Amy!
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book is a slog to get through. Especially the first third, which just expands on the synopsis written on the back.

Once I finally got through that first third, the story got a lot more interesting. The whole book is based on such a cool premise, it’s hard to separate the author’s bad story-telling choices from the potential this story has, and because of this, I’d have a hard time recommending the series to anyone.
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014, fantasy
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
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ma
Lu (Sugar & Snark)
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: have
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
Sarah E.
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
**I received this ebook for free from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review**

The Oathbreaker's Shadow tells the story of a people who make vows with consequences for breaking them. They carry their vows as knots that are worn. The oathbreakers are scarred by their knots (like a brand), exiled into the desert, and haunted by a shadow of the person they made the vow to. Vows are not typically made until adulthood - as you can imagine the little promises children make and break between friends o**I
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Amy McCulloch is a Chinese-White author, born in the UK, raised in Ottawa, Canada, now based in London, UK. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. (Hons) in English, specializing in Old English and Medieval literature.

At the beginning of 2011, she signed with Juliet Mushens of Caskie Mushens Agency for her debut YA fantasy-adventure duology: The Oathbreaker’s Shadow a

Other books in the series

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