The Swordmen's Oath by Juliet McKenna

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Book Information  
AuthorJuliet McKenna
TitleThe Swordmen's Oath
SeriesThe Tale's of Einarinn
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by lloyd hill 
(Oct 01, 2007)

This is the "Second Tale of Einarinn", and is, as you might expect, the sequel to the first: "The Thief's Gamble." It follows further adventures of Ryshad, Livak and Shiv (only his mother calls him Shivvalan). The first book was an excellent first novel and McKenna has followed it up admirably with this offering. The characters remain endearing and all too human. These aren't perfect heroes, but real people with real problems. They are the centrepiece of a cold war between two cultures with two different forms of magic. McKenna isn't afraid to let major events happen off-screen even if they include one of our main characters, and this keeps the plot moving along nicely. Even at a fairly hefty 550+ pages this doesn't drag, but drags you along instead.

We begin by following Ryshad, the swordsman of the title, and an old friend from book one, as he chases reports of a bunch of the Elietimm. Having been ordered on this mission he follows it with a glad heart, hopeful of a chance to repay them for the death of his comrade Aiten. While doing so, he runs across Shiv the wizard, finding out later that Shiv deliberately tracked him down on a mission for the Archmage. They set off to trace Livak, bringing back together what remains of the party from book one. Joining them this time are the rumbustious elderly mage Viltred and Livak's sometime partner in crime, the ex-mercenary Halice. We follow their adventures and misadventures through to a colony, which was abandoned at the time aetheric magic became mostly extinct (leading to the rise of elemental magic, practised by the Archmage, Shiv and the rest).
This collapse contributed much to the collapse of an empire: a fairly standard plot device. Foreigners with an unknown magic who covet the rich land of our heroes. McKenna avoids the obvious traps with this and it is neither trite nor coy. The Swordsman's Oath is all about what happened to cause the fall of the empire and the collapse of aetheric magic. It's a long journey to the truth for the protagonists, but hints and ideas along the way prevent it from becoming frustrating for the reader.
The characters seem neither too smart, seeing things from the flimsiest of clues, nor too dense, missing the all too obvious in furtherance of the plot. We do get the truth of things in this one, paying off the mysteries from the first book with no sense of disappointment, a feat all too rarely achieved. While the main mystery has been solved, the main events remain to be fully tied up, although this book has a complete and cohesive internal development to the climax.

The history has deepened, our knowledge of this rich world has been broadened, and the plot has been well thickened.

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