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OATH of the BROTHERHOOD
By CARLA YVONNE LAUREANO
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Carla Yvonne Laureano
All rights reserved.
The mist hung from the branches of the ancient trees like threads from a tattered banner, though the last vestiges of sunlight still glimmered on the horizon. Conor Mac Nir shivered atop his horse and tugged his cloak securely around him, then regretted the show of nerves. He had already seen the disdain in the eyes of the king's men sent to escort him. There was no need to give them reason to doubt his courage as well.
A weathered, scarred man on a dun stallion made his way from the back of the column and fell in beside him: Labhrás Ó Maonagh, Conor's foster father.
"It's too quiet," Labhrás said, his gaze flicking to the dark recesses of the forest. "The animals have gone to ground—they sense the unnatural. Keep your eyes open."
The twenty warriors quickened their pace, battle-hardened hands straying to their weapons for reassurance. Conor gripped his reins tighter. Now he understood the comfort a sword brought. Not that it would be of any use to him. He would be no help against dangers of the human kind, let alone whatever lurked in the mist.
He felt no relief when the road broke away from the trees, revealing the first glimpse of Glenmallaig's earthen ramparts and the stone dome of the keep within. The mist had already found a foothold, wreathing the top of the walls and giving the impression they stretched unendingly skyward. The moat's stale waters lapped at the base of the walls. Glenmallaig made no pretensions about being anything but a fortress, solid and impregnable.
"Steady now," Labhrás murmured.
Conor drew a deep breath. Few knew how much he dreaded this homecoming, but Labhrás was one. Other men might have taken the honor and considerable financial rewards of fostering King Galbraith's son without a thought to the responsibility it entailed, but Lord Labhrás had raised him as he would have brought up his own child. By contrast, the king had not shown a shred of interest in Conor for his entire seventeen years.
He swallowed hard and tried to disappear into the folds of his cloak as the drawbridge descended toward the bank. The leader of their escort gave a terse signal, and the procession lurched forward amidst a thunder of hooves on timber. Conor shuddered as he passed into Glenmallaig's courtyard, a wash of cold blanketing his skin—too cold, considering the fast-approaching spring. The carts carrying Labhrás's tribute to the king clattered across behind them, and the bridge once again crept upward.
Inside the courtyard, wood smoke and burning pitch drifted on the air, stinging his nose. It should have been a welcoming vignette, but the orange firelight only cast the mist-filled courtyard in a sickly yellow glow. Conor cast a glance over his shoulder just as the drawbridge thudded shut, sealing off the life he'd left behind him.
Foolish thoughts. Conor shook them off as he dismounted and winced at the twinge in his muscles as they adjusted to solid ground. A hand on his elbow steadied him, the iron grip incongruous with its owner's graying hair and finely lined face.
"Home at last," Dolan said under his breath, a tinge of irony in his voice. More than merely a devoted retainer, the man servant had become a friend and confidant over the nine years of Conor's fosterage at Balurnan. Dolan knew better than anyone the fears Conor's return stirred within him.
A pale, skeletal man descended the steps of the double-door entry, headed for the captain. After a moment of quiet conversation, he strode in their direction with a cautious smile. Conor squinted, then drew a sharp breath. The last time he had seen Marcan, the steward of Glenmallaig had been in the bloom of good health, commanding the household with a mere word. Now his clothing hung from a gaunt frame, and shadows marked the pale skin beneath his eyes. Surely the mere passage of time couldn't have effected such a transformation.
"Welcome, my lord Conor," Marcan said with a bow, his voice as calm and capable as ever. "Your old chamber has been prepared for you. Come."
Dolan gave him a nudge, and, reluctantly, Conor followed Marcan up the front steps into the great hall. Torches threw flickering light on the cavernous room, from its rush-covered floor to the curve of the ceiling, though they could not quite dispel the shadows at its apex. Conor's gaze settled on four unfamiliar men standing before the dais that held the king's throne. From their elaborately embroidered clothing, he guessed three of them to be lords of the realm. The fourth's clean-shaven head and plain robes marked him as a cleric.
The priest turned, revealing the black tattoos that etched his neck and curled up behind his ear. Conor halted as he met the piercing blue gaze, unable to summon the will to move. The sensation of a thousand insects scrambled over his skin.
Lord Labhrás's solid form cut off his view, breaking his trance. "Take Conor to his chamber," Labhrás told Dolan. "I'll be up directly." Only when the servant took Conor by the shoulders and turned him down the adjacent corridor did he realize he was trembling.
Who was the man? And what had just happened? Conor struggled for breath as they ascended a long flight of stairs, a pang of foreboding striking deep in his gut. He gave his head a sharp shake to clear away the sluggishness. Only once he was halfway up the stairs did he regain enough clarity to survey his surroundings.
They looked completely unfamiliar.
He glanced behind him to the hall to reassure himself they hadn't detoured while he was in a daze, but no ... this was the main staircase to the upper floor. He must have traveled this very path thousands of times, both in his early years at fosterage and in his visits back home.
Why couldn't he remember it?
Marcan stopped near the top of the stairs and pushed a door open. "Here we are, just as you left it. Your trunks are being brought up now, and I'll send the boys in to fill the tub."
Conor stepped inside, expecting a rush of recognition, but this room felt just as foreign as the stairway. Faded tapestries dampened both the chill and the echo from the stone walls. Fine woolen blankets and a wolf 's pelt covered the shelf bed on one end, and a single chair with a threadbare cushion stood beside the carved oak armoire. Opposite it, a wooden bathing tub waited, already half-filled with water.
The door banged open to admit four of the keep's servants, each pair carrying a heavy wooden trunk between them. They plunked them unceremoniously near the door, then escaped into the corridor without a bow or even a nod.
Dolan scowled at their backs, then turned to the trunks and loosened the leather straps on the nearest one. He immediately began to unpack Conor's garments with practiced efficiency, shaking out the wrinkles before he hung them in the wardrobe.
Conor watched Dolan work for several minutes. "Who were the men in the hall?"
"Three of them were minor lords."
"And the fourth?"
Only the slightest pause in the servant's movements betrayed his discomfort with the question. "Unless I miss my guess, there is a druid once more at Glenmallaig."
Conor sank onto the edge of the bed, his breath catching in his throat. A druid. They were not uncommon in the kingdom of Tigh. Most were quiet, contemplative men, content to remain isolated in the nemetons until they were called upon to perform the rites of Tigh's gods and goddesses at the quarter year or to tender folk cures for ailments. Conor had come across their kind outside Balurnan, and while the Balians denounced their pagan ways, few could perform any magic beyond benign hearth charms.
Yet this druid's suffocating presence said he was no harmless earth wizard. Conor had grown up hearing stories of the Red Druids, blood mages of immense power that counseled kings and led men in battle. Could this man be one of them? Did the Red Druids even still exist, outside of history and bards' tales?
Before he could voice his thoughts, a light knock at the door announced the arrival of two boys with steaming buckets of water in each hand.
"Bathe," Dolan said, while the boys emptied the water into the tub. "I'll go fetch your supper. Lord Labhrás should be up soon."
Conor smiled his thanks, though food was the last thing on his mind. It was bad enough he was about to face his father and explain why he had not yet laid hands on a sword. Now he might have to contend with a Red Druid, whose kind were notorious and ruthless inquisitors, a man who looked at him as if he already knew Conor's most dangerous secret.
He forced down his unease and stripped off his travel-stained garments. His skin prickled, but a quick glance over his shoulder assured him the door remained closed. He slid quickly into the bath's meager concealment. Breathe. They couldn't know. Labhrás had been careful. No books of Scripture or religious symbols had come with them, and Dolan's discretion was unquestionable.
If the king found out, it would take only a whisper to destroy Labhrás's status in the kingdom. Galbraith may have relaxed the restrictions on Balianism during his reign, but not so long ago, adherence to the forbidden faith would have landed their severed heads beside the keep's gate. Even now, Balian converts did not retain possession of their lands and titles for long.
Lord Balus, protect us, Conor prayed silently, not daring to give voice to the words. May You be the shield between us and our enemies. May You be the Light that guides our path. May everything we do further the work of Your kingdom.
He let out a long, shuddering sigh and sank further into the warm water, concentrating on moving his breath in and out of his lungs. Inch by inch, he forced his mind away from his worries. He could not afford to seem afraid here. To show any discomfort would only make them wonder what he was hiding.
He sat bolt upright in the bath, sloshing water over the sides. He whipped his head around, looking for the source of the whispered voice.
I know what you conceal, Conor. Soon, they all will. I can protect you.
Gooseflesh prickled his skin, and the warm water turned cold. "Who's there? Show yourself!"
Join me, Conor. You'll be safe ...
He jerked awake with a yelp and slid underwater before he even realized he had fallen asleep. He surfaced, spluttering, to find Labhrás watching him from the doorway.
The older man's lips twitched. "Taking a swim?"
Conor blinked. Steam still rose from the surface of the water, and the floor beside the tub was dry. A dream. Just a dream.
He shook his head with a self-conscious laugh. "Not intentionally." He wrung water from his tangled hair and reached for the cloth beside the tub. Only once he had dried himself off and tugged a clean linen shirt over his head did he dare voice his question. "Is it true? Is there a druid at Glenmallaig?"
Labhrás nodded and sat down on the bed. "His name's Diarmuid. He's been present at court for at least a year, though I'd be surprised if he hasn't had an influence for longer than that. I don't need to tell you—"
"—the less he knows of us, the better? No. That one I figured out for myself."
Labhrás sighed. "There are things we must discuss, Conor, but they are not topics for tonight. Eat, try to get some sleep. We'll speak tomorrow."
"Aye, my lord." Conor knew better than to press him, even though there was little chance he could put any of this out of his mind tonight. He watched his foster father move to the door and then called out, "Lord Labhrás?"
"I don't remember this place. Any of it. My chamber, the hall.... It's only been three years. I should remember something, shouldn't I?"
He expected Labhrás to reassure him, to tell him he had been grieving his mother when they last visited Glenmallaig, too young to remember anything before that. Instead, Labhrás met his eyes seriously. "Aye, you should remember something. Good night, lad."
Conor exhaled heavily and scrubbed his hands over his face. Nothing about this trip felt right. Not the escort, not the mist, not the druid's presence. He was not foolish enough to assume any of it was connected—not yet—but he knew with certainty he was far out of his depth.
Excerpted from OATH of the BROTHERHOOD by CARLA YVONNE LAUREANO. Copyright © 2014 Carla Yvonne Laureano. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Forget "young adult" - this is simply great literature! Rarely do authors earn 5 stars for their books from me. This one blew away my expectations and completely pulled me into story from early on. I honestly did not want to stop reading this book, and that hasn't happened in awhile. Sure, the basic plot followed what I expected, but the journey had nothing hokey about it. Since this work is labeled as "young adult" I expected something corny and eye-roll worthy, something I had to suffer through. But what I knew of the book showed just enough promise I took a chance. I'm so glad I did. Forget "young adult," this novel is for anyone who can comprehend it - don't let the label scare you away! It is very hard to create a believable world where there is no distinction between the supernatural and magic, and to interweave it through realistically portrayed lives and kingdoms. It is, unfortunately, all the more rare when a work is published from a Christian perspective, especially to craft the story without it becoming preachy or hokey. Laureano does just that. Incredible. I wait in eager anticipation for the next part of the Song of Seare. Highly recommend.
Fantasy fiction isn't my normal 'go-to' genre, but I've heard tons of great things about this debut so I cracked the cover. Thirty-two hours later, I turned the last page, took a deep breath, and immediately went searching the internet to find out about when another book would be released! This story has several superb elements: world building, character development, suspenseful story, and satisfying ending. Prepare to be lost in the ancient Isles of Seare and Amanta, battling the evil Red Druid and uniting the kingdoms once and for all. A word of advice: flip to the back for the glossary and keep it handy as a reference until you get comfortable with the names of both people and places. Once you get the hang of pronunciation, the reading goes much more smoothly. Aine and Conor and SUCH great main characters, and watching them grow and change over the course of the novel was a treat! Be warned: lovable characters don't always survive...so be prepared to cry! From the traditions of the order of the kingdom, to the customs and laws of the Brotherhood of Fierin, everything is both believable and fits right in. C. E. Laureano didn't miss a beat, and "Oath of the Brotherhood" stands with classics such as "The Lord of the Rings", "Chronicles of Narnia", and my current favorite "Blood of Kings" by Jill Williamson. It was a thrilling journey from the walls of Glenmallaig to the Keep of Faolan, into the heart of the Firein and all across this ancient landscape. Heroes, traitors, villains and heroines abound...and you'll gasp at who betrays whom. Oh, yes, this book has it all...every element necessary to craft a superb story of epic fantasy fiction! "Oath of the Brotherhood" is published by Tyndale (my thanks for my complimentary copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review), and releases THIS MONTH! Perfect reading once the summer begins!
I really enjoyed this fantasy story. It is very unique. It has a Celtic/medieval feel to it, which I love. It has a lot of allegories to Christianity. It is told more from a male perspective, which I don't always connect with as much. I really loved the parts with the heroine and the slow building romance. "The Oath of the Brotherhood" seems to be a great start to a promising Christian fantasy series. Content: It's a clean read. Rating: 3.5 stars Genre: Fantasy; Christian fiction
OATH OF THE BROTHERHOOD is a very thrilling book. I literally couldn't put it down and my mom had to yell at me to make me put the book down and do my homework. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series, Beneath the Forsaken City. The names in this one were kind of weird, but once I got past that it was okay. A totally great book that I highly recommend whether you like fantasy or not. 5 stars. Highly recommended!
This book is great reading . The story unfolds around the characters and keeps you wondering what will happen next . I would recommend this book .
Good Book! I normally don't read fantasy fiction but decided to give this book a try. It was a good book, there were a lot of names, both people and places to keep track of. There is a name sheet included in the book so you won't be totally lost. The main characters, Connor and Aine are easy to keep track of and they work to pull you into the magic of the kingdom. The plot thickens as secrets are revealed, young love is separated, murder is staged, magic is used and new friendships are formed.
Oath of the Brotherhood is a young adult, fantasy, Christian novel. I've really been starting to enjoy fantasy so I was excited to read this book. It is definitely on point with many of the other young adult fantasy out there but because it is Christian it is safer for your teens to read. It is set on an island at the edge of the world with an ancient prophecy and a reclusive brotherhood. A young man named Conor is the main character. He is a disappointment to his father because he is hopeless with a sword but great with the harp. But when his path crosses with the Firein brotherhood will he be the one they are looking for. When the kingdoms go to war and evil encroaches the land will Conor be willing to sacrifice all he loves in order to help save the kingdoms? I truly enjoyed this book. It had lots of adventure and a great plot line. There was also a little romance but it was extremely tastefully done. There are also many good lessons to learn about our faith and trusting Jesus. The only thing I would say is before you have your teen read it make sure they understand when they talk about certain characters it is a allegory of the Christian faith. And make sure they see the glossary in the back. It helps you pronounce the odd names as well as understand some of the less clear stuff.
I really had mixed feelings about this novel! I didn't fully get into it until about halfway and I think that was due to me not having a connection with Conor! It was really hard for me to relate to him, but with Aine it was totally different! I absolutely loved her as a character and she was the one who really kept the first part of the book alive for me because otherwise I think I would have stopped reading! However, I'm really glad I didn't though because the story picked up significantly for me and had me enraptured! There was so much action and a little bit of romance weaved in! I was absolutely amazed at Conor's change throughout the entire novel and how his faith shaped him! There were quite a few surprises that were mixed in there too that had me on the edge of my seat! The Gospel is very solid in this story and is told with such truth! I absolutely loved how she did not shy away from telling that truth and how God is very active in our lives! Granted at times it was a little hard for me in mixing the faith and what they called magic together, but I understood what she was trying to say. Overall I am very excited about the next novel in the series! My expectations were very high and so I expected a lot more from this one! If you stick with these characters there sure to leave you enchanted in wanting to read more! I give Oath of the Brotherhood by C.E Laureano a 3.5/4 stars! *(I received this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review! All thoughts expressed are my personal opinion and I was not required to write a positive review!)*
This book is very artistically written. The descriptions throughout it are very detailed and readers can easily immerse themselves in Conor's world. However, I had a difficult time getting into it. I'm not a huge fan of fantasy books, and probably wouldn't have chosen this one to read except that it was on the Tyndale Summer reading list, so I decided to give it a try. I did think the book had a very strong message to readers - to follow the call of God. The characters were well-written, and I could easily imagine the settings. There are many great things about this book, but I found myself hard-pressed at times to continue reading it. Although this was not my favorite book, I think a lot of readers would love it, especially younger readers. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings or the Narnia series, you would probably love this book. However, it just wasn't for me. Sometimes it is difficult to find really good books for the teen crowd, and I think this would be a good suggestion for them to try. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Intrigue and Magic; a Phenomenal Story. This book has it all. There are complicated and intense political tensions, fascinating magic, heroes, romance, and surprises. Some scenes are both allegorical and interesting stories within the tale. There are clans and domains to keep track of, and battles to follow; and the magic is central to the story. The main characters grow and are strengthened on their quests. The author portrays these characters so well that I feel connected to them. Her world-building is beautiful and detailed. I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to the next one.
I really enjoyed reading this book. The more and more that I read it the more it pulled me into the story. At first I had a hard time getting into it, but as I got used to the fantasy world and learned more about the characters I began to love the book and devoured it. The only reason that I gave it 4 stars out of 5 was because it was a slow start and took a while to really understand and care about the characters. But, by the end of the book I could literally not put it down until I finished and will now be pining for the next book in the series! I am a huge fantasy fan and cannot wait to read more of these books. The narrative was told through the two main characters, Conor and Aine. This worked out amazingly because you got to hear about what was happening in two different parts of this story's world. It was such a wonderful story of faith and coming of age in this familiar but foreign world. Laureano filled it with beautiful descriptions that made me feel apart of the fantastical scene. The end of each chapter left me hungry for more. I recommend anyone who likes Fantasy, it is a wonderful read! And for those readers who don't like fantasy, I challenge you to give this one a try, I think you might just like it ;)