Too Much Going on in “Oathbreaker’s Shadow”

oathbreakersshadowOathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCullouch
Random House Children’s Publishers (UK): June 2013

The plane was delayed, the luggage lost, and the museums closed vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

In the beginning, I thought I would like this one. I guess it always starts out that way, doesn’t it? Because unless you were coerced, bribed, or manipulated into reading a particular book, if you didn’t think you’d like it, well, you probably wouldn’t crack the cover, would you?

My overarching impression of this book is one of size and pieces. The scope, the setting, the plot … they’re all really big. Too big, I think, for the writing. Lots of disparate pieces never came together in this. In order to set the stage, the description of the environment and the culture meant that the story took a very long time to get going. The story felt split into multiple parts, with the first describing the main character Raim’s childhood and his place within society. While the plot relied on Raim unintentionally breaking a promise symbolized in a piece of string wrapped around his wrist since childhood, it takes almost half the book to get to the promise-breaking point. The second half felt like taking the scenic route to another city that could have been the setting of its own book. Instead, it played a cameo role that felt displaced from the rest of the story.

The promise string never made sense. How could he be held to a promise that someone else made for him? Effectively, he was forced as an infant onto a path he could not even understand, let alone choose. It is explained eventually, but the explanation also felt out of place and not convincing.

Raim’s relationship with the presumed heir of his people seemed unreal. At first, they had a great friendship and I thought their friendship was going to provide some backbone to the story. Then, Raim was described as being blind to all his friend’s faults, only because of the long-lasting bond they shared. In the end, he was forced to understand how his friend was not the person he seemed, but was still surprised at his betrayal.

Finally, the magic system did not make sense to me. I won’t go into it, because that would be giving it away (it isn’t revealed until near the end), but it felt as though the book was leading in one direction and then suddenly turned left and everything changed.

I wanted to like this one, and I almost did, but ultimately it felt fragmented and too big for its … covers?

*Advance copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

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