Oathbreakers (1989), the second book in Mercedes Lackey’s VOWS AND HONOR series, is much better than the first book, The Oathbound. You probably don’t need to read The Oathbound first, unless you want the backstories on the main characters.
Tarma and Kethry are a female sword-and-sorcery duo. Tarma, a swordsmaster, is the last remaining member of her clan after they were obliterated by raiders. Kethry became a powerful sorceress after escaping an abusive arranged marriage. The women have become sworn sisters and they plan to revive Tarma’s clan after starting a sword-and-sorcery school. For now, they are working as mercenaries, trying to gain the reputation that will make others want to join them.
In this installment, which is a lot more focused than the previous one, Tarma and Kethry have been working for a mercenary company called the Sunhawks. When their leader, Idra, goes home to settle her recently-deceased royal father’s estate, she never returns to the company. Kethry knows that Idra is in danger because her magic sword (named Need) lets her know. Tarma and Kethry decide to travel to Idra’s family’s country to find out what happened to her.
Their quest involves donning disguises, meeting a Herald and Companion, joining forces with a nerdy archivist, infiltrating a castle, and, of course, using their sword and sorcery skills to punish men who abuse women. It wouldn’t be a Mercedes Lackey book without eeeevil villains, a big magical battle, lots of hand-waving about how the magic works, and sexual abuse (in this case, like the previous book, expect gang rape).
Oathbreakers is much more cohesive, interesting, and exciting than The Oathbound. There are a few new characters (including the archivist) who are pleasant additions to the story. Kudos to Lackey for including an asexual hero, a hero with a physical disability, and a love interest who is not what readers normally expect. This is about as good as a Lackey book gets for me (I’ve read 24 of them). It’s entertaining but could never be accused of being great literature. I really wish Lackey could be a little more creative and subtle with her villains. She relies on torture, rape, and pedophilia in most of her books.
Tantor Media has just produced the VOWS AND HONOR series in audio format. Oathbreakers is 9.5 hours long and is narrated by Christa Lewis who does a nice job with this story.