Completed 8/6/2022, Reviewed 8/6/2022
For the second book in the Vows and Honor trilogy, I again had mixed feelings. Like in The Oathbound, I liked a lot of things about the book, but it just didn’t really engage me. One of these “the whole is less than the sum of its parts” type reactions. I really like her prose, the plot, the world building, and I thought the characters were well developed. But overall, I just couldn’t get into the book.
This volume has only one story arc, as opposed to the previous book which was a collection of shorter works fused together into one. Tarma and Kethry spend time with the Sunhawks, a mercenary group. Their leader is Idra, a strong woman and their founder. She gets word that her father has died, leaving the throne vacant. She must go back and cast her vote toward one of her two brothers to reign, since she renounced her inheritance. After several months, she disappears and Tarma and Kethry go to find out what happened to her.
Tarma and Kethry are great. I really like them. They basically share equal billing, but it feels like Kethry gets a little more growth. We’re introduced to a new character Jadrek, a royal archivist who seems to have insight into the kingdom, the new king, and the whereabouts of Idra. At first he’s not very likable, but I warmed up to him as time went on. He’s the one character I actually empathized with. I like the main characters, but didn’t find myself engaged with them until they develop a friendship with Jadrek. He's an intellectual, awkward, and has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. But as the plot develops, he gets thrown in with Tarma and Kethry and soon they begin to trust each other and actually care for one another.
The world building continues to grow, particularly in the relationship Tarma has to the Goddess. It doesn’t feel haphazard or superfluous. It’s detailed and intriguing. And the prose is wonderful as well. I like the way Lackey describes the action without the mechanical details while still making you feel part of the action. There’s some pretty rough violence in this book, but it’s never too gory or over the top. In fact, I felt the same amount of revulsion that the main characters did when confronted with it themselves.
I give this book three stars out of five. It’s good, but it just didn’t come together for me. In the end, I felt a little ambivalent about reading the third book. However, I think I’m going to read it because it’s a collection of short stories and a short novel of our heroes. I’m actually looking forward to the change in form to see how I like that as opposed to a full-length novel.