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Wind Rider's Oath    by David Weber order for
Wind Rider's Oath
by David Weber
Order:  USA  Can
Baen, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

A new novel by David Weber is cause for rejoicing, as far as I'm concerned; and once again, this talented author delivers a rousing tale. We rejoin the epic adventures of Bahzell Bahnakson of the Horse Stealer hradani clan. Hard enough to be one of the feared and hated hradani, but Bahzell and his loyal friend Brandark find themselves in the very midst of the Horse Stealers' most bitter enemies, the Sothoii and their courser allies. (The Sothoii are master riders, and a few are chosen as partners by coursers, horse-like, magical creatures that are larger, more intelligent, and more savage than horses.)

Why would a prudent hradani do such a rash thing? Tomanak, god of battle and of justice, has chosen Bahzell to be one of his Champions, the first and only hradani Champion in the history of Norfressa, the world to which the Five Races of Man (including the hradani) fled after a cataclysmic disaster. And most of the members of the Five Races, including the hradani themselves, can hardly believe that Tomanak did not make a mistake.

Like all Champions, Bahzell is charged with seemingly impossible tasks by his god. (In Bahzell's world, the gods are only too real.) This time, he is moved to seek out the hideous evil that is slaughtering coursers and threatens the Kingdom of the Sothoii. His friend and fellow Champion Kaeritha, a human woman, finds herself investigating the tensions threatening war between the War Maids and their neighbours. The War Maids' matriarchal free society is anathema to some of the conservative members of the male-dominated societies that surround them. And you can imagine the reactions to Kaeritha!

As always, Weber delivers a pulse-pounding story peopled with well-developed characters. His protagonists do not back down in the face of danger. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder and overcome not only terrifying menaces but their own fears and flaws. They also stand ready to pay the price: one of the most suspenseful elements of Weber's tales is that there is no guarantee that someone you have come to like and admire will survive the battle.

Weber loves diversity and the richness it confers on any society. His characters come across like a wonderful tapestry of vibrant colours and patterns, and his skill as a writer makes it possible for him to juggle a myriad of personalities and plot threads. I wept for the nameless courser who defied impossible odds and was cheered at the end, when Weber settled his fate. So often authors forget loose ends, but not Weber.

Wind Rider's Oath is an emotional roller-coaster ride. I laughed and cried, held my breath in suspense and cheered. I envy the new reader who has yet to make the acquaintance of Bahzell Bahnakson and his magical world. Enjoy!

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