The Swordsman’s Oath by Juliet E McKenna

Rating 8.5/10
Overall this is a wonderful world that McKenna has created, which is well worth investigating.

The second of McKenna’s Tales of Einarinn series, this starts not long after the ending of the first book where the thief Livak and the swordsman Ryshad returned from their terrifying trip to the islands of the Elietimm, ruthless users of aetheric magic.

Ryshad is now the owner of an ancient sword, which is influencing his dreams, a development which is of significant interest to the mages that he and Livak got caught up with in The Thief’s Gamble. The wizards of the island Hadrumel are continuing their investigations into ancient relics and what, if any, answers they hold regarding aetheric magic, a more ancient and, until the Elietimm appeared, unknown magic that is now presenting a threat to the peoples of Einarinn as these ice-island dwellers try to expand to the mainland.

This second novel focuses on Ryshad rather than Livak, who represents the interests of, and acting as a pair of eyes for, the noble he is sworn to serve. Whilst finding out more about these ancient artefacts, Ryshad is ensnared by magic and ends up sold as a slave to the young wife of a warlord from a series of islands far to the south. He has to adapt to his new role as a body servant, as well as find out why an Elietimm magic user has also made his way to the islands.

Again, this is very strongly written, weaving a rich tapestry of the different peoples of the lands of Einarinn. The islands Ryshad is taken to have vastly different views regarding gender roles in society, how to conduct business, and views on magic use and omens, making this not just a continuation of the story begun in the first novel, but a book which could be read by itself.

One downside is that because the book mostly focuses on Ryshad, the other characters used at the beginning before he is sold just vanish until he is brought back from the islands. I think it would have been a more rounded novel had the narrative moved between the different characters as various events unfolded. However, the book comes to a conclusion in which clearly a lot of thought had gone in to, and which ties together strands across the first two books in a way that I certainly didn’t see coming.

Overall this is a wonderful world that McKenna has created, which is well worth investigating.

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