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The Oathbound

(Valdemar: Vows and Honor #1)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  13,703 ratings  ·  293 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. ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 302 pages
Published July 5th 1988 by DAW
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 ·  13,703 ratings  ·  293 reviews

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Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~
Skimmed the last 25%

It started out promising but then it crashed, hard and fast, and somehow just kept getting worse. This book is like that awkward kid who tries too hard to fit in with the cool kids: cringe-worthy and embarrassing. I can see what it was trying to do, but to say it's been done better before is putting it mildly. I don't even know where to start with this one, so list!

(view spoiler)
What I was hoping to get in this book: the entertaining exploits of an asexual swordswoman, her badass sorceress adventure-mate, and their animal companions.

What I actually got in this book: Rape, so much rape, misogyny, and transphobia. (Being a woman is not a punishment, rape isn't an appropriate punishment for any crime, and having breasts and a vagina doesn't make you a woman. End of story.)

I LOVE the partnership between Tarma and Kethry, but there was very little else about this book I fou
Feb 2018 - bought the Kindle edition, since the pb one I have is pretty elderly by now. Am reminded just how annoying it is when the italics (ML uses them for mental dialog and mindreading, etc) are messed up in the middle of sentences, when the page-scanner screws up so many words ("Warrl" becomes "Ward") or words are broken into nonsensical parts because they were hyphenated in the scanned copy ("reshea thing"), and when the breaks within a chapter, to indicate a change of scene or time passin ...more
Christine PNW
Continuing with my Valdemar read!

I was less impressed with this one because it really felt like a few vignettes strung together to become a novel. There wasn't really a cohesive, overarching narrative.

What I did like were the two main characters, Tarma & Kethry. This is basically a quest narrative starring two women - a warrior and a mage - which was pretty refreshing. I also loved Warrl, Tarma's familiar, which I pictured as sort of a lynx/wolf hybrid.

Next up is Oathbreakers, which revisits Ta
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Mulan, Fans of Warrior Women, Feminists, YA Fantasy Fans, Fans of Strong Female characters
I wouldn’t recommend this book.

Update: The author recently made some horrifically ignorant and anti-trans comments on her blog.

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
MrsJoseph *grouchy*
What did I think? That's a hard one. The Oathbound was published 30 years ago. Let's think about that: Mercedes Lackey was certainly a pioneer of her field. In 1988, Mercedes Lackey managed to get a traditional publisher to publish her series starring TWO women with agency. A swordswoman and a sorceress who also wields a sword. The two become mercenaries and there's nary a man to be seen.

That part is amazing. What wasn't so amazing was the small things: the causal (off page) gang rapes (there w
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
This one's a nope from me. Made me very uncomfortable in a bunch of ways ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really wish I liked this book more than I did. The idea promised by the cover - two oath-sisters, wielding magic and the sword, whose purpose is to protect women - is super badass. But I feel like the word that best fits the actual book is "odd".

The structure of the book is odd: multiple times, there'd be a fun leadup to a cool scene/adventure (e.g. there's someone to fight!/they got hired as bodyguards!) but then the actual meat of the thing would be skipped and the next scene would be the bi
Para (wanderer)
Jun 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
This was technically a reread, but I remembered so little of what happened it might as well been a first time read. And unfortunately, it was not to be. I couldn't bring myself to reread the whole thing.

The Oathbound is a book with numerous issues. It's not even in the "problematic fave" category I'd put Vanyel's trilogy in, it's just plain terrible. First things first: the pacing is horrid. The first 15% or so is entirely an infodump on magic, on the characters' backstories, on everything. The
D Dyer
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I expected to absolutely adore this book. It has lots of things that usually inspire my absolute devotion and love, magical creatures, powerful kick-ass female warriors, rape-revenge plot lines, but I was honestly a bit disappointed in this book. It started out as a series of short stories and you can definitely see where the seams are in the novel it is ultimately presented as. Both Tarma and Kethry have their appearances and backstories referenced in multiple chapters in ways that feel much mo ...more
Jeffe Kennedy
Jan 26, 2016 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. ...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
In this book the author does something quite different, with something closer to sword and sorcery literature, but adding something different: a feminine look. You see, instead of the usual cynical barbaric male protagonist we have two women, a warrior and a sorceress, who see things differently. The other differences start from this starting point. Our two heroines have a tender relationship of love and mutual help and together they engage in adventures, having a deeper purpose but along the wa ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I always skip this series when I feel like reading Valdemar novels, I think because I'd heard they weren't actually set in Valdemar proper. And I was right; they aren't, and somehow for me that just made them less enjoyable. I prefer Companions and Heralds, and while this wasn't bad, it just wasn't what I love about Lackey.

So it was good, but not great. I will read the next two as I have themin the same new paperback edition, but this won't be a series I'll return to like I do with other books i
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I've read this series so many time since the titles first became available. My copies are all mass market paperbacks that were purchased way before GR and ebooks. It's only now that they make it onto my list but the titles are amongst my forever favorites. ...more
Apr 11, 2009 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
Nana Spark
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Trigger Warnings: Rape

This one was pretty alright for the most part. The premise? Tarma is a nomad whose tribe was slaughtered by brigands and she swears vengeance by the sword. Kethry is a noble woman who escapes marriage and flees to a school of magic and becomes a sorceress. Their paths cross and by, Tarma’s goddess, they become Oathbound to each other and venture forth on a blood vengeance for the nomad's tribe.

So… I was thinking this book would be about an amazing, magical adventure for ven
Re-read 2019

This isn't my favorite trilogy in the Valdemar series. I believe the chapters were originally short stories that go together. So parts of it are choppy and I occasionally feel like I'm missing something. The book does deal with some hard topics including rape, brutal loss of a family, and domestic violence, and you can tell the era they were written during due to how the author deals with the outcomes. I do like that these books give us a view of some of the people from outside Valde
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Tarma and Kethry are Oathbound sisters. A strange pairing with Tarma being a Sworn Sword and Kethry being a mage. However, the goddess saw fit to bless the ties that bind them and so they travel together as mercenary's. The story felt more like a collection of short stories, each chapter a different adventure.

Kethry carries a gea, in the form of a sword called Need. Need calls to Kethry when women, and only women, are in trouble. Once the sword calls to Kethry there is nothing she can do, but an
Oct 18, 2015 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
Jan 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Sooo...I was planning on doing a full review of this series once I'd read the two novels and the book of short stories/novellas. But after reading this first book and then letting it sit...I just don't care to continue. I liked the duo of strong female leads and the world-building was alright...there's potential in the magic system too. But honestly, nothing hooked me enough to make me want to continue on. And there's an awful lot of rape happening to our leads or mentioned in the past and it wa ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There was an awful lot of rape in this book. All of it non-graphic, thank god, but holy shit, man. Does a character need a tragic back story? Rape! What threat can we hang over our heroines' heads? Rape! How should we punish evil? Rape! I understand wanting to create tension and establish that this world is a dangerous place, but at a certain point it starts to feel lazy.

Second problem with the book: too straight. There are nods to queer romance here or there, but good ol' Mercedes takes great
George Straatman
Jan 25, 2010 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
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
This read like it was comprised of a number of short stories just stuck together, which apparently it was! It doesn’t have much plot, chapters are disconnected and often the narrative builds up to a climax... then it completely skips the event to the characters talking about what happened later on which is frustrating.

Not great.

A number of people have commented on the amount of rape and abuse in this story already so I won’t go over old ground but a lot of it is dealt with in a problematic way,
Tom Ackerman
Sep 15, 2020 rated it liked it
So, I wanted to read some good old-fashioned Sword & Sorcery, but I was hoping to find something from a female author with female protagonists. Well, this is that, and these characters first appeared in the Sword and Sorceress anthology. However, I was left rather disappointed by The Oathbound.

Though the book is probably quite feminist by the standards of fantasy novels in 1988, the descriptions and some of the character actions have aged very poorly in that regard (other commenters have writte
Jan 11, 2010 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
Oct 10, 2010 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
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Pam Baddeley
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
I read 'By the Sword' before this book - which begins when the two protagonists of this series are older women - and liked both characters, especially the swordswoman Tarma, so decided to give this a try. I had originally decided to give it away after finding Lackey's Last Herald Mage series full of angsty wallow and sadomasocism, but was pleasantly surprised to find 'By the Sword' a workmanlike fantasy - with various flaws as I mentioned in my review, but still interesting. So I was expecting s ...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 & M ...more

Other books in the series

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

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