by Joanne Bertin
Tor, $25.99, 430pp
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Bard’s Oath, which follows The Last Dragonlord and Dragon and Phoenix, is a thrilling tale that stands on its own quite well enough for first time readers, especially as the author has thoughtfully included a “The Story So Far” summary of the first two books. The central theme is the twinned responsibility and freedom of bards, grounded in an oath to do no harm with the bardic gift that can inspire, beguile, persuade and enchant others, and what happens when that gift is abused, that oath violated. For Leet, a magnificently talented bard driven by arrogance and rage, uses his powers to ensnare even Dragonlords, the were-dragon shapechangers, to his will, and employs vile blood-magic to corrupt lives. But he is opposed by an alliance of Dragonlords and true dragons, determined to rescue their own and put an end to the evil Leet has unleashed.
This story is remarkable in several ways. First of all, there is a rare quality of kindness which underlies the storytelling. Secondly, the characters enjoy their nature and adventures so thoroughly that I fervently wish I could be one of them. Also, the story has a surprising ending that ‘reframes’ so much of what has gone wrong before that it makes for a truly happy ending. This is first rate fantasy, and Bertin has become one of my favorite tellers of dragon tales. ~~ Chris R. Paige