The first of a two-book adventure series sends a gifted warrior-in-training out into the desert to die.
In a fantasy world with the flavor of the Central Asian steppes, Raim is a 15-year-old nomad determined to join the elite forces of the Khanate. Since he was a child, he's been best friends with the Khan's heir, and if he passes his tests he'll be young Khareh's most trusted fighter. He need only make an Absolute Vow, an oath sworn on a knot. If the maker of a knotted promise is forsworn, the knot burns a hideous scar on the oathbreaker's body, and a grotesque shadow appears, haunting the breaker of the promise and causing his countrymen to drive him into the wilderness. With a loaded gun like that hanging on the wall, readers know it will soon be fired. Yet when Raim does set a promise knot afire, it's through no choice of his own but from some terrible misadventure. If he can only survive the shame of banishment, the desert's poisonous bugs and the city of the oathbreakers, Raim can learn his terrible family secrets—except those best left for the sequel. Worldbuilding grows through exposition that plods as slowly as Raim's trudge through the sands.
Readers who stick it out to the action-packed climax will be curious about what's coming next. (Fantasy. 13-15)