Thursday 6 June 2013

The Oathbreaker's Shadow review

The Oathbreaker's Shadow
Amy McCulloch
June 6th 2013
Random House Childrens Books

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 since becoming the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the most important day of his life, when he binds his life to his best friend (and future king) Khareh, the string bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin.

Scarred now as an oath-breaker, Raim has two options: run, or be killed.

A gripping YA action-adventure fantasy, the first part of a planned duology.

The Oathbreaker's Shadow is a solid, quality piece of young adult fantasy (ooh, look at me talking like I know what I'm actually talking about!) which originally took me a while to get into, but slowly drew me in with its brilliant world building and characters. I am very much looking forward to how things will resolve themselves in the next book!

The concept of this book was what really drew me to it (though I guess that's true of most books...) but I've never read a book before that was a fantasy and set in this really interesting middle eastern/Mongolian inspired world with this really cool idea of people making promise knots and having to live with the consequences of breaking those promises physically for the rest of their lives. See, when a person breaks their promise knot, they essentially get followed around by the spirit of the person who they broke their promise to. When Raim's promise knot breaks, he gets followed by the spirit of his friend Khareh, which allowed for some interesting stuff, let me tell you. The actual Khareh (Not the spirit one. yeah, I know I'm not explaining this very well, which I why usually try not to summarise stuff.) is going down a bit of an evil, power hungry path, and it would have been really easy just to let it be and have him be a complete douche, but his spirit self wasn't crazy/power hungry and it kind of showed why Raim would have been friends with Khareh in the first place and that at one time he was a different, better person to the person that he is now. If that made any sense at all.

I also liked Raim a lot as a main character. I don't read that many books with male main characters, so it can sometimes take a while to fully get into it (not that I find it, like, really hard to relate to male characters or anything because I don't want people to think that I'm implying something like the whole 'books about boys are for boys and books about girls and for girls' bullshit). That also might have been because it takes  while to get solidly into the story and for us to get to see more sides to Raim. Wadi was great, too, and I liked getting to see the different cultures in this world and their relationship with the whole Oathbreaker thing. I really want to find out more about both Raim and Wadi's backgrounds, though, because of Raim's promise knot that he had since he was born, pretty much, and because there's some stuff going on with Wadi, too.

The world was rich and well developed, and there was a nice balance between the world building and the actual story, which can be a bit of a problem with fantasy. Also, the setting was one of the more original settings that I've read about and you could really tell that she'd done her research and knew a lot about the places and cultures that the setting was influenced by. Lazar, the place where exiled Oathbreaker's try and get to, was probably my favourite all the places in the book just because it was so interesting and completely not what you'd expect it to be, and I liked finally getting to find out why Oathbreaker's were exiled and what they could actually do.

The Oathbreaker's Shadow was a really great, action-packed fantasy novel with plenty of fights and magic and deserts to whet your appetite, if you like those kinds of things...

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