Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fantasy Review: Oathtaker by Patricia Reding

OathtakerOathtaker by Patricia Reding

Oathtaker is a fantasy where a young and inexperienced heroine takes on the responsibility for two vitally important infants, whom a villainous woman is set to destroy. I liked it, but there were a few things that bugged me.

Things I liked:
First off, I found the character and location names, easy to read and pronounce. This is rare in a fantasy book. It was refreshing not to have to guess at pronounciation. I've begun to be really sick of the goofy names in this genre. Then again, the rather sudden tendency to name the horses near the end of the story, like that was significant, kind of surprised me, and the horses' names were more fantasy-bookish than the people's names.

The cover was simply beautiful and right on the mark for this genre. I like the one that shows Mara's face, but the one with Mara facing away is also nice. The editing is excellent. There are very few errors throughout, and the usage of grammar is solid and consistent. This is a long book, but it flows well and is easy to read. That's good for folks who like to stay engaged with a story for a long time.

The action sequences are well done and exciting, particularly the opening battle and the final battle. There's also some infiltration and sneaking about that I enjoyed. Add to that some clean romance. There's tension (the characters even call it that a few times), but nothing more racy than sitting in each other's arms on a bench or taking a walk. I like how the connection between Mara and Dixon was built and resolved. And on that note, I really dig the solid ending, no cliffhanger. There's room for another, but it leaves you satisfied. The main conflict is resolved. Then again, the court case seemed out of place. It felt like I was suddenly reading a different genre.

As for my favorite characters, well, they weren't the main two: Mara and Dixon. My favorite villain was Lilith. She's just plain evil, wrapped in a pretty shell. I like how she's supposed to be on the side of good and that's how she gets away with things until she makes her move. The Select scent, and how she imitates it, how that's described, is excellent. My favorite hero was Velia. I loved Velia. She is a great example of female fantasy heroine. I found myself wishing the whole story was told from her perspective instead of Mara's, but she only comes into the picture near the end.

Things I didn't like:
The dialog was often choppy or fell into sort of an interrogation. There was also a lot of repetition and back and forth between the characters, almost like they were all either being hard headed or not listening to each other. I also noted numerous out of place emotional responses during dialog. Like they were just tacked on as an afterthought to liven it up. As I got deeper into the book, I began to pick up on a trend in the dialog. It seemed that after a while there was no real differentiation between how most of the people spoke and acted while talking, especially among the good guys.

This probably fed into why I never really felt a connection to most of the characters. I didn't dislike them, just didn't feel particularly worried for them when something went wrong or happy for them when something went right. Often, people are introduced, then the doings of groups of them are listed out. I lost track of who was whom frequently.

It's also a little hard to root for people who act in illogical ways, at least it is so for me. For example, when running for help, why would you start with niceties? I think you'd much more likely start with the plea for help or the announcement of danger, specifically, not dancing around the subject. When running for safety, why would you stop and study in one place for weeks or months instead of continuing on directly to the safe haven and keeping your extremely important charges there? Or, when trying to save someone, why would one of the characters refuse to let the other get on with it and just run alongside for an on-the-go breakdown of what's happening?

As for the magic system, it's intriguing, but how Mara learns about it isn't. She's just so hard headed and clueless: about the magic, about her role, about what to do next. Lack of training just doesn't fly for how difficult it is for Dixon and the others to convince her that she's doing magical things. Then suddenly, she's all about redefining magic. She's kind of a disappointment. Also, this story features the most useless magical item I've ever read about: the oracle.

Colloquialisms and foods that exist in our world just kind of destroyed the feeling of being in another one when they popped up in the story. Sure, they may be eating crepes or whatever, but I don't want to hear them called that. Nope, I like to hear them described and then try to make that connection myself. I'm sure there's no France in Oosa. The descriptions of the food reminded me of those you might find in a food magazine. They did sound appetizing, but they felt out of place.

This is an epic-length fantasy, but not quite what I would call an epic fantasy. I liked it, but I found a lot of things just a bit off from what I'd expect in a fantasy book. As someone who reads the likes of Robert Jordan, Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss, Terry Brooks, and Terry Goodkind, I feel like I have a good grasp of what makes a truly memorable epic fantasy, one I'd want to read over and over again. This book had some of that, but not quite all of it.

I think casual or new readers of fantasy might find this to their liking, particularly those who like a book that will keep them busy for a long while. I also think that people who like fantasies without a lot of tonguetwisters will find this relievingly free of hard to pronounce names and locations. I know I did.

I received the review copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest and fair review.

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