In Windrider’s Oath, Bahzell and Kaeritha split up on what at first seems like two different missions. Kaeritha heads off to visit a community of “warmaids” who have come into conflict with a local noble. The dispute is about a contested piece of land claimed by both sides. (The dispute is also about a great deal of entrenched sexism. Warmaids are considered to be “unnatural” because they renounce all family ties in exchange for a little more freedom than the average Sothoii woman is allowed.) Kaeritha’s job becomes even more complicated when Leeana, the daughter of Baron Tellian decides that she wants to become a warmaid.
Bahzell meanwhile is sent to investigate the mass murder of a herd of coursers. (Giant intelligent magical horses, giant intelligent magical horses who have very real reason to dislike hradani, especially Horse Stealer hradani who got their name from their habit of eating the horses they stole. Sothoii feel eating horses is horrifying and the coursers feel that it is cannibalism. Tomanāk seems to enjoy giving his paladins jobs where they have to deal with their own prejudices or jobs where other people have their own prejudices shoved in their face.)
These two incidents turn out to be two ends of one very large conspiracy intended to topple the Kingdom of the Sothoii.
Of the three books so far in this series, I think this is the weakest. The exposition and character interaction felt awkward and a little rushed, and the villains seemed flat. More so than in the previous books, Weber is apparently attempting to have a narrative where there is a story line for each side of the conflict. The problem here is that he is attempting to do this when there are clearly defined alignments where one side is definitely capital G “Good” and the other side is capital E “Evil.”
(While the “both sides get equal time/characterization in a strictly good/evil fantasy” has been done before, it is a narrative concept that drives me right up the wall.)
Another thing I disliked about the presentation of the villains is that Weber decided to try defining “correct” and “incorrect” feminine behavior in the subplot involving Leeanah via the major female villain interfering with the warmaids. Unfortunately, he did a very bad job of it.
(Specifically, you could tell which of the warmaids had been suborned by the villainess because they were promiscuous teases, who ‘led men along’ without putting out. What the narrative seemed to find especially damning was that they were doing this as a means of revenge. I am not even going to get into the entire “evil priestess of evil goddess is able to suborn good priestesses of a good goddess because the good goddess has a creepy dark side,” thing that Weber appeared to be implying.)
While I did have a lot of problems with this book, it was still fairly readable.