“Oathkeeper” by J.F. Lewis

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Oathkeeper” by J.F. LewisOathkeeper by J.F. Lewis
Series: The Grudgebearer Trilogy #2
Published: June 9th 2015 by Pyr
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 381
Format: ARC
Source: the publisher
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Oathkeeper is the second installment in J.F. Lewis’ Grudgebearer Trilogy.  Kholster was once the leader of the Aern, a slave race created by the mad sorcerer Uled in order to fight against the reptilian Zaur.  The Aern are bound by the oaths that they take, and if they break an oath, they lose the ability to communicate telepathically with other members of their race.  Because Kholster technically died as he ascended to godhood, the Aern are now released from his oath to kill all of the Elderannai, who had once enslaved the Aern.  Instead, his daughter Rae’en has taken Kholster’s place as leader, and must decide how the Aern will deal with their former oppressors.  As Rae’en contemplates her choice, the Zaur are closing in as part of a master plan that could doom both the Elderannai and the Aern if they can’t resolve their differences.

I love the way that Oathkeeper plays with gender and gender norms.  There are so many strong female characters who shape the world in which they live, and then there are other characters who defy convention altogether.  For example, General Tsan.  The Zaur have traditional gender roles where the men fight and the women breed.  However, Zaur gender isn’t fixed, and people rotate genders throughout their lifetime.  Tsan is a fighter, and he/she takes an illegal drug in order to keep the metamorphosis from happening.  But she slips up and begins changing, at which point she manages to come into her own and command respect for who she is and what she’s capable of in a time of crisis.  I found Tsan fascinating not only because of her gender, but because I found myself cheering her on even though she was ruthlessly fighting for the side of the enemy.  Very few characters are flat, no matter what side they are fighting on, they all evolve and experience growth over time.

J.F. Lewis’ world is breathtakingly complex.  You’ve got a bunch of different races that each have their own historical baggage, and they’re trying to coexist but rubbing up against each other because they can’t erase their tainted history.  The Aern can’t let go of what the Elderannai did to them, and you can’t blame them for not easily forgiving atrocities.  And because the Aern and Elderannai both have extremely long lifespans (the Aern are nearly immortal, and the Elderannai are basically elves), it’s not easy to forgive and forget, because lots of people who were a part of it are still alive, and there’s some serious PTSD going on.  Think Germany right after WWII.  And then there are the Zaur, who emerge in this book not as some mindless enemy, but a proud and intelligent people who were just as much a part of Uled’s influence as the Aern.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and doesn’t even get started on the politics between the gods.  To say that this trilogy is ambitious is an understatement, and yet, J.F. Lewis pulls it off with style and leaves me begging for more.

My only complaint with Oathkeeper is that it falls into the George R.R. Martin trap, or rather, too many point-of-view characters, only some of whom I cared about.  The story would have been a bit clearer if some of the extraneous characters/arcs were cut out, and we focused instead on the key players.  Even so, the story was so engaging that the extra characters were easy to forgive, and I don’t know that those characters won’t play a key role in the next book, so I may be speaking too soon.

Oathkeeper is a fantastic continuation of a series that is truly epic in scope.  I can’t wait to see how the series ends!

2 thoughts on ““Oathkeeper” by J.F. Lewis

    1. I’m enjoying the series a lot so far. There’s even a character who is allergic to the Zaur, which I find awesome. That would be me in a fantasy world–allergic to my enemies.

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