The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

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The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: An interesting plot and well-developed setting couldn't get me to look past the bland characters in this fantasy novel.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 416 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Doubleday Childrens
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0552566365

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Raim lives in a world where breaking a promise can scar you for life. When he binds his life to Khareh, his best friend and the future king, the string symbolising an unknown promise bursts into flame and he's reviled as an oathbreaker. Fleeing, he's forced to head to the City of Lazar, where all oathbreakers are sent. What will he find there? Can he ever restore his honour, return home to his friends and family, and prove that he has nothing to be ashamed of?

This is quite difficult to review, because although I didn't really enjoy it, it actually has some strong points. Notably, there's a clever central plot, which tackles themes of honour, loyalty, betrayal, family and love, and has a couple of interesting twists. That said, I couldn't get particularly excited about it because I found almost every character to be both fairly bland, and completely unlikeable. Raim is a hero who just annoyed me for the vast majority of it, being rude, arrogant and generally hard to warm to. The supporting cast didn't capture my interest either - except, at least, for the girl Raim meets, who's one of the better love interests in recent fantasy novels and seems as if she'd be significantly too clever and sensible to get involved with someone as boring as Raim. Overall I came to the end with a feeling of relief that I'd made it through it rather than with any thoughts of looking forward to the next in this duology.

If you're a big fan of fantasy, the interesting setting here - it's based more on Mongolia in the era of Genghis Khan than on the traditional fantasy setting of elves, dwarves and so on - may make this one worth taking a look at. For me, it's a real disappointment, though.

Two of my favourite recent fantasies have been Pantomime by Laura Lam and Curse of Kings (The Trials of Oland Born, Book 1) by Alex Barclay. Both are highly recommended.

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