Review: Oathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCulloch

No beating around the bush with this one.


by Amy McCulloch
Random House UK, 2013
High fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookiehalfrating / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley

oathbreakersGoodreads: 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.

Gifly Thoughts

The premise was interesting enough. In fact, I loved the idea that promises are taken very seriously, and oaths are tied to you with the use of a knot. It makes for a very messy situation when the promises are broken, as it’s called for. For that alone, I thought the book garnered a read.

There was also the backdrop, which was quite different from your usual European-inspired fantasies. The cover alone gave that feeling of an exotic world, and true enough, McCulloch delves deep into her world, providing the reader a look into the land and its history.

A couple chapters in, though, I found my attention span wandering to other books. At first, I thought this was normal, because, you know, I tend to wander between books even though some of them are pretty darn good. I didn’t worry, and I continued on in hopes that my attention span might pick up again after Raim’s brother’s wedding.

Nope. No. The whole attempt failed, and it was certainly not just because of my short attention span.

Nothing was happening.

I mean, like, yes, okay, things WERE happening, but it was hard to pay attention to them in-between the massive chunks of infodump paragraphs, the repeated descriptions of oathbreaking and shadows and why oaths are NO JOKE, and the constant use of cultural terminology that probably needed some sort of definition appendix at the end of the book.

The first chapter alone was solely an introduction to the friendship between Raim and Khareh with a backdrop of Raim’s brother’s wedding. This friendship is emphasized over and over again, though, and I certainly didn’t feel like the whole wedding scene and buildup to the Yun test were necessary. IMO, the book should have started right when Raim’s Yun test took place, with the worldbuilding springing up gradually from there. But, ya know, that’s just me.

It also didn’t help that the only character I really liked pretty much perished a quarter into the book.

And none of the characters seemed remotely interesting after that (maybe with the exception of Raim’s sister, but that doesn’t even count because she shows up so little in the book). Not even Khareh, who somehow escalated from bestie to baddie, though I’m not exactly sure where the motivator was there.

So as much as I tried to like this story, the only thing that I really found fascinating still was the unique magic system. I wish I could say anything more past that.

2.5 out of 5 cookies! I’d normally bump these things up, but eh.


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