Thursday, December 24, 2015

REVIEW: The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch (The Knots Sequence #1)

The Oathbreaker's Shadow
by Amy McCulloch
The Knots Sequence #1
3/5 stars

How I found this book:
I picked this book up because I was given an ARC of its sequel, The Shadow's Curse, before I realized it was a sequel. <reading overdrive />

What makes this book stand out is its breath-taking worldbuilding and wholly original magic system. It's a fascinating universe that I couldn't get enough of. I caught myself singing 'Arabian Nights' now and then with this desert society of tribal nomads which is, to me, such a foreign and intriguing concept I had to keep reading. It wasn't just the nomadic lifestyle that made this interesting; it was how McCulloch describes it through her characters. The nobility and freedom of it. It's such an interesting and, again, foreign outlook to me that it was fascinating.

As for the magic system, I haven't seen anything like it before, and to find something unique in this genre can be tricky. The magic works in oaths and in knots. When someone makes a promise or a vow, they bind that promise with magic within a knot. Should they ever break that promise, the magic and the knot will break, transforming into a shadow of shame that will haunt them until their death, marking them as a despicable oathbreaker. And that's as much as I can say before spoilers, but let's just say, there's something about that shadow...

The story starts with a compelling mystery, questioning where our hero, Raim, received a knotted bracelet as a baby, what promise it might contain and to who.

Both Raim and his best friend Khareh are vivid and interesting characters. It was very easy to connect to both of them because of their clear and present personalities and their friendship -with its ups and downs and being so familiar with each other's faults and strengths- utterly humanized them. They're so powerful and full of life I wonder if McCulloch had to keep a cudgel at her desk to stop them from popping out of the pages.

This is the first book in a duology, its sequel set to release in February 2016. This is a plus in my book, because I am invested in so many multiple book series it's laughable. Knowing that I can step into this world but that it also won't stretch on for years and years makes it even more compelling.

There was too much narrative in this for my taste. There was a lot of detail and much of it felt removed from the characters and the story, which is a big no-no in my book. I did find myself skimming large sections. It also slowed down the beginning of the story, which I'm a little torn about because, on the one hand, we become fully immersed in this exotic world, but it also took nearly a hundred pages for the story to kick into gear.

My one other complaint with this book was an unsatisfactory development between Raim and his love interest. I feel like their relationship was pushed and premature. We didn't actually see them interact as much as we were told that they did, so I felt out of the loop on a lot of significant interactions as they were supposed to be falling in love. What I saw was a good beginning for a relationship, but they seemed to jump from 'beginning' to 'I can't live without you' in leaps and bounds I didn't quite catch. I feel like this can be a common problem in YA and I hope the next book gives us some more satisfactory and believable development between them.

Clean Read Guide:
Raim is a trained soldier, so there is violence in this book, with at least one very descriptive suicide. For this alone, I'd recommend it to mature audiences.
There is one make-out scene, but it's short and not very detailed.
No profanity.

The Oathbreaker's Shadow was a fantastic story, with a fascinating world and an original and thrilling magic system. A fun read, it's also a fresh breath of air in the YA fantasy genre. I would recommend it to fans of worldbuilding and epic fantasies and I can't wait to read the sequel.

Check out the review for the sequel, The Shadow's Curse.

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