By The Sword by Mercedes Lackey
Series: Valdemar #9
Published by DAW on February 5, 1991
Granddaughter of the sorceress Kethry, daughter of a noble house, Kerowyn had been forced to run the family keep since her mother’s untimely death. Yet now at last her brother was preparing to wed, and when his bride became the lady of the keep, Kerowyn could return to her true enjoyments—training horses and hunting.
But all Kerowyn’s hopes and plans were shattered when her ancestral home was attacked, her father slain, her brother wounded, and his fiancée kidnapped. Drive by desperation and the knowledge that a sorcerer had led the attack, Kerowyn sought her grandmother Kethry’s aid, a journey which would prove but the first step on the road to the fulfillment of her destiny. For facing her family’s foes would transform Kerowyn into an outsider in her own land, a warrior bound to the spell blade Need, and a mercenary forced to choose between loyalty to her comrades in arms and the Herald of Valdemar, whom she had rescued and who in his turn had helped to awaken her to the true meaning of love and to her own unique powers of magic.
*Please Note: By the Sword is a stand alone book that can be read out of the Valdemar Universe publication order. By the Sword IS #9 in the Valdemar universe, however, so there is a great deal of history and definitions that are from previous works in series universe.
How do you analyze old friends? Honestly, I think it’s impossible.
I first met Mercedes Lackey while browsing the stacks at the public library in my home town. I don’t remember what grade I was in but I was somewhere in the area that covers both Middle and High school. Regardless, before Mercedes Lackey, I’d mostly read a lot of Science Fiction and SF anthologies. I’d just found MZB’s Swords & Sorceress anthologies when a brightly colored cover caught my eye as I wandered the stacks.
That book happened to be Winds of Fate (Mage Winds #1). And goodness! That cover was MADE for people like me! It felt like the book screamed my name. I mean, look at all that purple!!!! THAT horse! I grabbed a copy and continued on. I hadn’t a clue as to how this one book would truly change my life.
That night (which also happened to be a school night), I started reading Winds of Fate. And I was entranced. I fell deeply in love: with the characters, with the series, with the author and with Fantasy. I stayed up all night reading that book. When my dad yelled at me to go to bed, I turned out the lights and immediately dived under the covers with a flashlight to read. I finished the book sometime in the early dawn hours. I was exhausted but oh, so emotionally satisfied. And I was “feining” like a crackhead – desperate for my next fix: Winds of Change.
Fast forward and I am a major Mercedes Lackey fan: owning more than 50+ of her books and 95% of the 40+ books in this series.
So. On to this book. By the Sword. Who knew that reading Winds of Fate would drop me into the middle of a new “world?” Kerowyn, the heroine, was a major character in Winds of Fate and I was excited to get to know her better! Kerowyn (and her teacher Tarma (from Vows & Honor)) still reign as two of the baddest badasses this side of Kate Daniels. Kerowyn and Tarma laid the groundwork for my undying love for the woman warrior.
By the Sword follows Kerowyn’s life from the time she is about 16 years old until she arrives in Valdemar (early 30s?). Kerowyn has quite the pedigree and her life shows this: she is descended from Adept-Class mages, an ancient Noble line and pure intellectual genius on her mother’s side. Her father’s genes graced her with exceptional physical abilities. Kerowyn was then blessed to be trained by one of the top weapons masters in the world: Tarma.
By the Sword starts at a pivotal time for Kerowyn: her older brother is getting married which will bring great change to her home. Suddenly, in the midst of the celebrations Kerowyn’s home is attacked. Her father is killed, her brother is severely injured and her brother’s fiancee is kidnapped. Kerowyn realizes that the fiancee has to be saved but there is no one – besides her – uninjured enough to ride after them. So Kerowyn decides to ride to her Grandmother – the legendary Adept Sorceress Kethry (Vows & Honor) – to ask for help. This ride, later to become known widely in song as Kerowyn’s Ride, will forever change Kerowyn’s life. Readers of Lackey’s Vows and Honor series will be excited to run into the magical sword Need again – this time passed from Kethry to her granddaughter Kerowyn.
Gosh, I LOVE By the Sword. Not quite sure how she did it but Mercedes Lackey managed to avoid turning Kerowyn into a special snowflake. Yes, Kerowyn is special but the achievements she has attained in her life are the results of hard work, sacrifice and discipline.
There’s much to recommend in By the Sword but new readers should be aware that Mercedes Lackey refrains from getting too dark in her Valdemar series.