REVIEW: THE OATHBREAKER’S SHADOW / AUTHOR: AMY MCCULLOCH / PUBLISHER: CORGI CHILDREN’S / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Set in the land of Darham, The Oathbreaker’s Shadow follows the story of Raim. Tormented by a spirit conjured by an oath he never recalled making, he is driven into exile by his people. Forced to wander the land as an outcast, he begins hunting for answers and soon begins to uncover darker and more dangerous secrets about the world.
As a concept, The Oathbreaker’s Shadow looks to be an interesting outing. Along with the idea of oathbreaking carrying significant weight beyond besmirched honour, Darham contains more eastern influences than the common or garden fantasy setting. The issue is that while the world itself is interesting in concept, the presentation fails to make the best use of it. Rather than working minor elements of cultural significance into the narrative as the story progresses, the book relies upon lengthy info dumps to exposit on the nature of the world. This is only made worse when many elements, such as the Mongol elements of culture, feel copied and pasted in rather than used as an influence.
Things unfortunately don’t get much better with the story, as the prose reads as if it is throwing information at the reader rather than telling it to them. This is unfortunate as Raim himself is a likeable enough protagonist if a little bland, and there are definite moments of harsh survival and action which do play to McCulloch’s strengths. But because of her flat, uninvolving style, the slower moments feel like dead air, and this creates a barrier preventing true immersion within the tale.
There is definitely a good story in here with sparks of entertainment, but with so many flaws holding the tale back it’s a hard to recommend it. With more focus and better presentation this could develop into a great series. As it stands though, give this initial entry a pass.