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Oath of Swords

by David Weber

paperback edition

Oath of Swords is the new book out by David Weber, best known for the very enjoyable "Honor Harrington" series. Unlike the Honor books, Oath of Swords is a sword-and-sorcery (mostly swords) fantasy. Also unlike the Honor books, Oath of Swords is pretty bad.

The hradani are an undercivilized, overmuscled race characterized by pointy ears and a susceptibility to a berserker rage, imaginatively named "the Rage." Bahzell Bahnakson is a prince of the Horse Stealer hradani tribe. When he's forced to flee his homeland, he and his friend Brandark wander all over the map printed at the front of the book, killing people, dodging assassins, killing people, saving damsels in distress, and killing people. When he's not busy either killing people or rescuing them, Bahzell fills in the gaps in his time arguing with the War God, who wants to make Bahzell his paladin. (That constitutes a spoiler only if you haven't read the back cover.)

Oath of Swords reads like a bad rehash of The Deed of Paksenarrion. It's populated with the standard elves, half-elves, halflings, evil wizards and loathesome demons. The dialogue is frequently silly, and the writing can only be described as, well, bad. The plotting is very clumsy, and after the climactic fight, the resolution sort of limps along for another 30 pages as if Weber wrote until he grew tired of it and stopped.

This is not to say that nobody will like Oath of Swords. I read the whole thing, and I found myself enjoying it at the same time that I was saying, "Geez, this is bad!" However, I have a fairly high tolerance for bad fantasy. If you're in the mood for a mindless quest fantasy, I suppose it's possible that you could do worse than this (recent Eddings, for example). Otherwise, Weber fans should avoid Oath of Swords, and reread your Honor Harrington books instead.

"And so I owe you my life again, Bahzell Bahnakson," she'd said, voice wavering with the aftershock of her tearing sobs. "Oh, Bahzell, Bahzell! What god sent you and Brandark to me, and how can I ever prove worthy of you?"

"Hush, lass," he'd growled, and patted her roughly, awkward and uncomfortable as a stripling before the glow in her eyes. "You've no call to be 'worthy' of such as us!"


-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
January 1995

paperback edition
Publisher: Baen
Date: February 1995
ISBN: 0-671-87642-2
Binding: paperback
Pages: 489
Price: US $5.99, Canada $7.50

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Sep 2001 / CMS