Oathkeeper – Grudgebearer trilogy #2 – J.F. Lewis
Release date: June 9th, 2015
Age Group: Adult
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Rae’en has taken her father’s place as First of the practically immortal Aern, a race created by the Eldrennai as warrior-slaves to defend them from the magic-resistant reptilian Zaur. Freed from all Oaths by Kholster’s death, Rae’en decides to wage war on the Eldrennai anyway out of rage and grief.
The war between the Eldrennai and Zaur has begun. Bloodmane, leader of the now independent mystic-warsuits, has underestimated both the sheer numbers of the Zaur and their field leader General Tsan. As the warsuits prepare to assist the Eldrennai in the defense of their Watch cities, the Zaur warlord, Xastix, launches the bulk of his forces at the Vael in an attempt to cut off all outside help.
Prince Rivvek, having been accepted as an Aiannai (Oathkeeper) before Kholster’s death must claim the Eldrennai throne by completing the Test of Four so that he can enact his plan to save as much of his kingdom as possible. Meanwhile, his brother Prince Dolvek hatches a plot to enlist the aid of the plant-like Vael to defeat the Zaur horde who are in league with the decapitated head of a dethroned deity.
This review will contain spoilers for the first book in the Grudgebearer Trilogy, so if you haven’t read it yet, I’d strongly suggest you do that first.
People who have read my review of the first book in J.F. Lewis’ trilogy, Grudgebearer, know I was intrigued by the book. It’s a complex story that involves a lot of history and new cultures to discover. It made for an interesting story that really resonated with me. ‘The Oathkeeper’ was a bit different in pace, but just as interesting to read.
The book picks the story back up where it ended in Grudgebearer. With Kholster gone, Rae’en is now First of the Aern. The Eldrennai are now freed from all Oaths because of Kholster’s passing, but that doesn’t stop Rae’en from blaming them and starting a war anyway. In the meantime the Zaur haven’t stopped their attack on the Eldrennai either. To cut off any support from outside they even invade the Vael territory and try to ‘negotiate’ with them under threat of violence. The two Eldrennai princes, both with different views on the world they live in and the role they have to play in it, also play an even bigger part in the story now. The Zaur seem to be stronger than ever and it’s important for the Eldrennai and the Vael to find out what has brought about this change. While the different races wage war, the Gods are still in disarray and the new addition in their midst might well be their downfall.
Yet again it is the complexity of the world, the cultures, the characters that makes this book so intriguing. Slowly more and more of the history and background of the different species is revealed and it always brings something interesting to light. One example is the Zaur. Apparently they have evolved quite a lot since the last war and it’s interesting to learn more about their hierarchy, their language, their lifestyle. Something that was very much at the centre in this book is the gender fluidity of some of the Zaur. General Tsan, whose point of view is explored in this book, is going through a male to female transition while leading an important part of the Zaur offense. Following her through this ordeal shed an interesting light on what it means to be Zaur and especially how she personally handled the whole transition made for some interesting reading.
I personally enjoyed the mystery around what happened with Kholster after his death very much. Quite soon we get to know that there is more to the story than we thought at first. It was a bit of shock to find out that his warsuit had changed so much, it rejected him when he was at death’s door. In this book we see them both come to terms with what happened, while Kholster takes on a whole new role and Bloodmane continues on the path he chose in Grudgebearer. Seeing Kholster’s plan unfurl was sometimes hard to get your head around, but it gave an extra dimension to the story. In the end, when it all started to make sense, I had to marvel at the complexity that had gone in to weaving all these storylines together.
I won’t give away too much because this series is definitely one you should discover all for yourself to really appreciate it. Complex, full of action and diverse characters, this trilogy so far is a hidden gem that I hope lots of people will discover in the near future. I can’t wait for the third book!