Although I’d forgotten about it, I first read a few chapters of the books from Vows and Honor a few years before being introduced to the Valdemar series. Those chapters are short stories in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies, III and IV. Whether Valdemar was already in the making or the shorts had something to do with that is hard to say, especially since there are only few references to Valdemar and its people.
In short, the books follow the paths and quests of a sword-sworn warrior and a sorceress that carries a sword with a mind of its own. The characters and storyline aren’t as cliché as they seem. Lackey wanted Tarma and Kethry to be different from the usual “strong like bull, dumb like ox” characters that are all too often found in the fantasy realm.
The main themes are given away by the titles: oaths, vows, and honor. These are shown in different perspectives: kith to kin, to oneself, from a leader to his or her people or vice versa, and religious. There is also understanding and keeping one’s promise and the possibilities if one doesn’t. Revenge also appears in different guises and for different reasons. Other ideas that come up are family, home, purpose in life, power (gained and used), codes of conduct, and strength.
I slugged my way through the Vows and Honor books: Oathbound, Oathbreakers, and Oathblood. The latter is actually a collection of Tarma and Kethry stories and includes a few chapters from the two novels. I found out it was unnecessary to read all three. At times, I read with the momentum with which I started, but otherwise I felt as if I were drudging along. I was glad to be done with them. It’s rare that I don’t finish books and the light at the end of the tunnel was knowing that Exile’s Honor, which I really like, would be next.
So far, from what I recall, and in my humble opinion, Vows and Honor is the worst of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. I remembered it as being better than it was this time around. The storyline and characters vary from okay to good. In my humble opinion, they could be better. It was more the atrocious writing and repetition that I found really annoying. Another qualm I have is the overuse of italics. Its usage for mind speech, thoughts, or “foreign” terms is all right, but Mercedes tends to over stress words. There were times when I wondered if an editor was involved at all. In fairness, these are some of Lackey’s earlier writings, the first story being published in 1985 and the last one in 1998. Her writing has improved quite a bit through the years.
“The hatched chick cannot go back to the shell, the falcon who has found the sky does not willingly sit the nest.”
“I am all that I claim to be. I simply have not claimed all that I am.”
“To have something, sometimes you must be willing to lose it.”
“The people who keep coping, keep trying, no matter how many blows Fate takes at them. Nobody’ll make a song about them, but they’re heroes all the same.”