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Oath of the Brotherhood

Review

Oath of the Brotherhood

Some people start a new fantasy series and get excited about the details of a new world, new characters or creatures they haven’t seen before. And then there’s me, who squealed like a birthday girl in a shoe store after reading the first ten pages of OATH OF THE BROTHERHOOD, the first book in C.E. Laureano’s The Song of Seare series for a different reason --- because everything was Irish. I must admit, I spent the first 20 minutes of reading this book pacing my room, saying all the character and place names out loud and nearly clapping my hands like a baby who just discovered Cheerios. Anyway, you get the point. I adored the fact that this story was rooted in the Irish language and the medieval history of the ancient island.

OATH OF THE BROTHERHOOD takes place in the medieval land of Seare, a mystical realm divided into ruling kingdoms and clans, filled with magic and dark creatures (again, heavily influenced by medieval Ireland and Irish folklore). The protagonist is Conor Mac Nir, the prince of one of the ruling kingdoms who has just returned to his homeland after being fostered by another clan for education and tutelage. He returns home to less than enthusiastic fanfare, and he feels haunted by the halls of the castle, feeling the presence of memories he cannot seem to recall. All of this is disrupted by the fact that his father, the king of Tigh, has a Red Druid by his side --- a powerful figure reputed to have high skill in the darker forms of magic.

Laureano will definitely leave her own special mark [in the fantasy] genre with The Song of Seare and in future works to come.                

Conor is a gifted harpist, and he is sent away as a hostage to the neighboring kingdom of Lisdara to form an alliance. While there, he forms a close bond with Aine, the beautiful, quiet and intelligent half-sister of the king. Not long after Conor’s arrival, the clans begin to fight, and a coup overthrows and murders the king of Tigh. Seeing that his life is in danger, Conor flees Lisdara to follow the instructions left behind by his foster father, Labhrás  --- he must join the legendary brotherhood of Fíréin, a close-knit, highly skilled band of warriors. As the war spreads over Seare, Conor realizes his natural and learned skills all play a part in a higher prophecy --- a prophecy that indicates he may be the one to bring peace to this turbulent land.

OATH OF THE BROTHERHOOD’s strengths lie in the writing and the characters. All of the characters, even the minor ones, are fleshed out and specific, and have their own voice and presence on the page. I found myself liking all of them and found them relatable even though they live in a fantasy world.  Conor serves as a solid protagonist, offering insightful observations and sprinkles of humor, while Aine proves that you can be a strong female lead without having to resort to the more masculine acts of war and fighting (which has recently become prominent in pop culture). The romance between the two was organic and not pushed, and the plot twists were well-placed. Laureano’s writing is also quite good; she balances time-appropriate lingo with contemporary language to make OATH OF THE BROTHERHOOD  accessible to her modern day readers.

The only thing that took me out of the story was the Balian religion, which seems like a carbon-copy of Christianity but with Irish names.  I found myself reading stories I have known by heart since Sunday school: creation, the Passion of Jesus, even things straight out of PARADISE LOST and the story of the creation of Hell. This was interesting at first, but the scripture stories felt too plentiful at times, and I found myself drawing out of the story, waiting for it to get back on track. I was also somewhat disappointed because other aspects of the book were so imaginative, and I think that Balian had a lot more potential.

But all of that aside, OATH OF THE BROTHERHOOD is a really solid first book in a great new fantasy series. I very much enjoyed reading it, and I know that I’m going to be looking for the next book when it hits the shelves. I recommend this book to both avid fantasy readers and new readers alike. The balance of clear storylines and a detailed fantasy world makes this book accessible to people who want to start dipping their foot into the waters of fantasy, and trust me, the water will be warm and welcoming. Laureano has created the beginning of a unique series that will satisfy many readers, and she will definitely leave her own special mark on the genre with The Song of Seare and in future works to come. 

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on April 29, 2014

Oath of the Brotherhood
by C.E. Laureano

  • Publication Date: April 18, 2014
  • Genres: Fantasy, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale
  • ISBN-10: 1612915876
  • ISBN-13: 9781612915876