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The Oathbreaker's Shadow

The Oathbreaker's Shadow

4.0 1
by Amy McCulloch

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In the land of Darhan, promises are bound by magic, tied into knots, and worn with pride. Those who break them are physically scarred, cast out into the desert, and stalked by vengeful shadows of their treachery. Fifteen-year-old Raim, the best young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard, has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember.


In the land of Darhan, promises are bound by magic, tied into knots, and worn with pride. Those who break them are physically scarred, cast out into the desert, and stalked by vengeful shadows of their treachery. Fifteen-year-old Raim, the best young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard, has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. He doesn’t know where it came from and barely thinks about it at all. But on the most important day of his life, when Raim agrees to give his life as a warrior to the future king, that knot bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin. Now scarred as an oathbreaker, Raim has two options: run or die.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It takes a bit of work to make headway into debut author McCulloch’s imaginative space. She eschews the typical medieval European world of fantasy for a nomadic yurt village on the steppes. The cast of characters is large, the customs and beliefs distant, and worldbuilding detail comes thick and fast. For readers who stick with it, what unfolds is a thoughtful coming-of-age story focused on questions of what constitutes betrayal. Raim, at 15, has been the devoted friend of Khareh, the crown prince of Dashan, for five years. The boys are on the brink of adult choices: Raim wants to become an elite Yun warrior, while Khareh is sliding into a battle of wills with the khan he has been chosen to succeed. As the boys swear a sacred vow to be forever protector and protected, these futures crumble. Marked as an oathbreaker and outcast, Raim goes on the run for his life into the merciless desert. Many questions are raised and none resolved, yet it’s an intriguing start to McCulloch’s planned series. Ages 12–up. Agent: Juliet Mushens, Agency Group. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"An excellent choice for those looking for a compelling and detailed fantasy novel."—SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL "Middle-school readers looking to get lost in another world will enjoy this adventure-packed read."—BOOKLIST "An intriguing start to McCulloch's planned series."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY "The most compelling new fantasy I've read in years."—Jonathan Stroud, author of Lockwood & Co and the Bartimaeus books “Brilliant. Absolutely gripping from the start, a complete joy and a great new voice.”—Conn Iggulden, author of the internationally bestselling Empire series “The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is a very promising debut in what bodes to be an electrifying duology. Unusual magic set in an exotic location and nomadic culture lures the reader to total immersion in Raim’s world.”—Robin Hobb, internationally bestselling author of the Farseer trilogy
VOYA, February 2015 (Vol. 37, No. 6) - Stacey Hayman
Raim and his best friend Khareh, prince of Darhan and its nomadic tribes, already have the future planned. One day, Khareh will become Khan while Raim becomes leader of the Yun and the Khan’s personal protector, but first Raim has to pass the Yun’s one-on-one combat challenge. Approaching the Honour Age of sixteen, when an Absolute Vow can be made and sealed with a ceremonial knot, these boys know the consequence for a broken promise is the appearance of a malevolent shadow and permanent exile from your family. Raim has been wearing a promise knot since his earliest memory but no one knows its origins. Taking a chance, he and Khareh make an Absolute Vow; the original knot is destroyed. Will exile be the end of Raim or will it be the start of something new for all of Darhan? This is a world of familiar features, yet different enough to clearly be formed by the author’s imagination. The land, the people, and their customs are explained in densely packed details, preventing the characters or the action from truly developing into something exciting. The strongest relationship is between Raim and the shadow that comes to him after his exile but a complex romance begins midway through the story and is worth waiting to discover. Surprising turns in the plot come along often enough to keep a reader’s interest. This first in a two-book series offers enough plot twists to provoke a reader’s curiosity and has a cliffhanger ending sure to make an impact. Reviewer: Stacey Hayman; Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world in which a promise is so binding that if it is broken, that promise leaves an irreversible stain on the oathbreaker, who is then cast out from the community and family for life. In Darhan, it is better to be dead than to be an oathbreaker. Raim has spent all of his life training to become an elite Yun warrior and guardian of his clan's future king, and coincidentally, best friend Kareh. On the night of his acceptance into the Yun Guard, Raim unknowingly breaks a mysterious oath he has been carrying since before he can remember. Raim is forced to flee before he is killed. He escapes into the desert in hopes of making it to the city of Lazar, where all the oathbreakers are forced to live. He barely survives his first day in the open before a fierce tribe of desert people, known as Alashan, find him and vow to take him to Lazar. The protagonist becomes embroiled in a conflict that, if not stopped, will endanger Darhan and all the people in it. The Oathbreaker's Shadow is easy to dive into and will keep readers engaged. Raim's character arc is full of palpable highs and lows as he uncovers the mystery behind his fate. The conclusion will leave teens wanting more, and is the perfect setup for a sequel. An excellent choice for those looking for a compelling and detailed fantasy novel.—Annalise Ammer, City of Rochester Public Libraries, NY
Kirkus Reviews
The first of a two-book adventure series sends a gifted warrior-in-training out into the desert to die. In a fantasy world with the flavor of the Central Asian steppes, Raim is a 15-year-old nomad determined to join the elite forces of the Khanate. Since he was a child, he's been best friends with the Khan's heir, and if he passes his tests he'll be young Khareh's most trusted fighter. He need only make an Absolute Vow, an oath sworn on a knot. If the maker of a knotted promise is forsworn, the knot burns a hideous scar on the oathbreaker's body, and a grotesque shadow appears, haunting the breaker of the promise and causing his countrymen to drive him into the wilderness. With a loaded gun like that hanging on the wall, readers know it will soon be fired. Yet when Raim does set a promise knot afire, it's through no choice of his own but from some terrible misadventure. If he can only survive the shame of banishment, the desert's poisonous bugs and the city of the oathbreakers, Raim can learn his terrible family secrets—except those best left for the sequel. Worldbuilding grows through exposition that plods as slowly as Raim's trudge through the sands. Readers who stick it out to the action-packed climax will be curious about what's coming next. (Fantasy. 13-15)

Product Details

North Star Editions
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
830L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

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Meet the Author

Amy McCulloch (London, UK) graduated from the University of Toronto and works as commissioning editor for HarperVoyager.

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The Oathbreaker's Shadow 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
ToManyBooksNotEnoughTime More than 1 year ago
Excellent New Story!! I would like to thank Flux & NetGalley for granting me a copy of this ARC to read in exchange for an honest review. Though I received this e-book for free that in no way impacts my review. Goodreads Teaser: "Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world where you tie a knot for every promise that you make. Break that promise and you are scarred for life, and cast out into the desert. Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one knows where it came from, and which promise of his it symbolises, but he barely thinks about it at all—not since becoming the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the most important day of his life, when he binds his life to his best friend (and future king) Khareh, the string bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin. Scarred now as an oath-breaker, Raim has two options: run, or be killed. A gripping YA action-adventure fantasy, the first part of a planned duology." This story is filled with a unique mythology, youthful adventures, and the terrible choices that sometimes a person must make as they enter into adulthood. Raim is at once a complex character as well as a very simple one. He has lived a charmed life amongst the nomadic Darhan, his people.  The Darhan have an interesting social culture. Every person belongs to a group, be it weavers, goat herders, soldiers, or even the elite warriors known as the Yun. Ever since the day young Raim saved young Khareh from a rabid wolf, the day that changed not only Raim's life but the lives of his father, brother and sister, Raim has dreamt of one thing. Becoming a Yun, maybe even Chief Yun.  Khareh is the crowned Prince of their people. While not the son of the current Khan, he was selected to be his heir since the Khan's seer-wife had not conceived. So Khareh led a charmed life, doing anything and everything he desired. And Raim, being his best friend, was always with Khareh. Though Khareh might not get into trouble for his antics there was nothing to say that Raim was protected. But Raim was an intensely loyal friend and could never deny Khareh.  Raim was well known, and considered to be the best upcoming Yun the Darhanians had ever seen. With his sixteenth birthday the day before Festival he would be able to test to become a Yun, and would almost certainly dedicate his life to Khareh as his personal Protector. And Raim was more than fine with that idea, regardless of how Mhara, his mentor and trainer, felt about Khareh. Mhara warned Raim that Khareh was not who he seemed, but Raim refused to listen to any negative words about his best friend. Promises among the Darhan were sacred things, and we're a,ways sealed with a knot. Young children grew up making promises with one another using their own hair to tie the promise knot, emulating adults. But if a child under sixteen broke a promise they only ended up with black smoke that followed them around until the person they'd broke their promise to forgave them. However once they reached the age of maturity at sixteen, all promises carried great weight. And if a promise was broken they ended up with a brand on their skin, as well as a shadow - both of which marked them as oathbreakers for all to see. And there is only one life for an oathbreaker - exile to the reviled city of Lazar. They became Chauk. And for a nomadic peoples there was no torture worse than having to remain trapped in one place for all time. When Raim makes an Absolute Promise to Khareh, to be his Personal Protector, the tiny knot in the string that had been around his wrist since birth suddenly burst into flame, charring his shirt sleeve and leaving him with a brand for all to see. But Raim knows of no promise he could have made, especially not a binding one made before his sixteenth birthday. But the damage is done, and he must run if he is to have the chance to find a way to clear his name.  The emotional journey Raim takes throughout this story is fascinating and intense. He is catapulted from being cheered for by all the different tribes under the Khan to being reviled and hunted, all within the space of a few hours. As he journeys into the desert in hopes of being found by the bloodthirsty Alashan, the only people capable of leading new Chauk to Lazar, Raim undergoes several major alterations. It quickly becomes clear that he is unlike any Chauk to have gone before him, and once in Lazar he is thought to be a sign. But he is only concerned with clearing his name so that he can return to the life he was supposed to be leading. Yet he can't help but begin to care for the other Chauk, especially once a new friend helps him past his ingrained prejudices.  By the end of this book both Raim and Khareh are different people than the two youthful boys we first met. Well, Raim definitely is; Khareh may actually still be essentially the same person, only now we get to see aspects of him that Mhara and others tried to warn Raim about. And with the ending comes a strong desire for the second book, for there are many mysteries yet to be unraveled and explained. Will good triumph over evil, or will Raim fail in his quest(s)? Will he ever discover who his broken promise was made to, and what the promise that derailed his life was? Definitely an entertaining and creative tale that leaves you wanting more and wanting it now!