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Oath of Fealty    by Elizabeth Moon order for
Oath of Fealty
by Elizabeth Moon
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Elizabeth Moon is one of the rare authors of speculative fiction who has succeeded brilliantly at both fantasy and science fiction. Though well known now for her Vatta's War military SF series, she started with a fantasy trilogy. The exceptional Deed of Paksenarrion (now a classic of the genre) took its young heroine from her roots as a sheepfarmer's daughter through military experience with Duke Kieri Phelan's famed mercenary band to the adventures that led her to become a paladin of Gird.

Now, almost two decades later, the author returns to her fantasy roots with this sequel. Given the hiatus, I was glad to be reminded of What Has Gone Before in the Author's Note at the beginning. Oath of Fealty opens on the same events that ended The Deed of Paksenarrion, revisiting them from different viewpoints. This new story propels several figures, who were previously in Paks' orbit, into the limelight.

Kieri Phelan is adjusting to the rule of half-elven Lyonya, with Paks' help, and planning how to defend his new realm. His coronation as king leaves a gap in his company's leadership, which is filled by his senior captain, Jandelir Arcolin. Tsaia's crown prince Mikeli survives an assassination attempt by powerful Verrakaien magelords, who use a forbidden blood magic. They're branded as traitors, requiring Mikeli to name a new heir to the dukedom - Kieri's captain Dorrin Verrakai (long estranged from her family after she rejected their cruel training in magic) is the logical choice.

Before Dorris leaves Lyonya, Paks helps her learn to unblock and use her heritage of powerful magery, which she will need in the trials ahead of her, and which Mikeli authorizes her to employ in the service of good. Dorris returns to the home she fled long before, takes the relatives she finds there into custody, and begins to undo the magical traps all around her. Then she makes a terrible discovery, that some Verrakaien have found a way to take over other bodies, and that they have used their own children for that purpose.

Attacks soon come by dark forces. One on Arcolin's command leaves his valued comrade fighting off demonic possession. Others target the Tsaia royals. Fortunately Dorris has been recalled to make her oath of fealty to Mikeli in time to foil them - this time. Oath of Fealty makes a stirring start to a new story arc in Elizabeth Moon's Eight Kingdoms. Along with a multitude of her other fans, I can't wait for more episodes.

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