For thousands of years, elves and non-humans alike had lived freely until humans colonized their land and forced them into hiding and subjugation. After years of living as slaves or second-class citizens, the elves rebelled, but their uprising failed, and humans remained victorious.
Mario Deschamps, a new graduate of the Knight’s College, sets off to complete his first deed, an accomplishment that will grant him knighthood and into the ordo equestris. But he has huge boots to fill. His late father, a famous knight and considered the Scourge of Bandits, single-handedly ended the Elven Uprising. Mario’s youthful confidence, vanity, and naivety don’t get him far in the real world, and he quickly finds himself trapped in a political climate where tensions are on the rise and war is inevitable.
In a world filled with monsters, outlaws, bounty hunters, demons, and murderous bandits, Mario is forced to make tough moral decisions. In a world fuelled by violence, hate, and bigotry, things are not as clear cut as he once thought. Lines have been drawn, but to complete his task, he must cross them all. With every choice, the consequences weigh greatly on him, leaving him full of guilt and doubting his path . . . and all the while, in the darkness, someone-or something-is waiting for him to break . . ..
A.J. Rettger weaves an epic tale of politics and prejudice, war and depravity, and legacy and destiny in his action-packed debut fantasy Oathbreaker….
Thanks to the author for a copy of Oathbreaker for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.
Oathbreaker is a novel I REALLY wanted to like, but I felt my enjoyment waiver as I continued on Mario’s journey. It felt like a debut that tried to be so many things but never quite stuck the landing on any of them. All of the normal tropes are present but nothing new about a single one is introduced, which leaves a sort of “middle-of-the-road” type experience.
I can’t say that it was a super frustrating read, though the opening segment led me to believe that I was going to read a completely different novel that I eventually did. I was set to read multiple chapters about Mario’s father, Pablo, as he was a very likeable character and Rettger sets him up for success, only to immediately be forced into Mario’s timeline for the rest of the journey. It felt rather… odd, though I understand what the author was attempting to set up.
I also felt that the pacing and characterizations could’ve used some tuning up. There are points where the crescendos you expect are there, but other times, it just feels like a slog. Scenes play out too quickly and end all too familiarly in order to keep the story progressing. In regard to the characters, Mario is a fine protagonist (though rather dimwitted), but the only one I honestly found myself enjoying was Hamish. The others felt a little overdone when it comes to the fantasy genre, and they didn’t really add much to the story except to progress Mario’s journey.
The book read almost like LitRPG meets The Witcher meets DnD without ever fulling becoming any of them. The reason I throw these out there are due to the decisions made by the characters, and how those decisions play out. It’s almost as if they are given 2-3 responses and they choose the one they don’t have enough Luck points for, so they fall into a heap of trouble and one of a handful scenarios play out.
What Rettger pulls off really well is the opening. He had me fully invested in this tale even though it ended up being average in the end. I feel like had Pablo’s journey been extended, some of the things I found problematic might’ve been remedied. He was definitely a very intriguing character, though with a limited arc.
Like I said, I wanted to enjoy this book because Rettger definitely does some things well, but there is just too much standing in the way of making Oathbreaker great. I’ve seen other reviewers have a completely different experience from me, so I could be in the minority. Take a shot if the synopsis appeals to you.