Book Review: Oath by Poppy Kuroki

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I’ve always been fond of stories that involve someone starting out in dire circumstances and, through wits or skill or even fate, finding where they’re meant to be. It’s not quite a rags-to-riches tale, but more of a rising from the ashes sort of thing. And when that story also defies my expectations and makes me love the characters, no matter what choices they make, then I’m all in. Thus was Poppy Kuroki’s Oath, a wonderful low fantasy novel which explores choices and consequences and hope for the future.

1. Thoughts on the plot

This book follows Collette, a young woman who has been on the streets almost her whole life. She decides that she is done starving and freezing and sneaks her way out of her Queendom and into the neighbouring Empire, a place where there is at least there is the chance of making a better life for herself. Once there, she falls into the company of some assassins in service to a dark goddess and nothing is ever the same again. 

The plot begins rather as one would expect: our main character starts the process to pull herself up and meets a group of people who may very well be her new friends and purpose. After that point, though? Everything I expected about this novel changed. The twists of this piece were absolutely wonderful, using logical people interaction and character development to move the story in a direction that was both unexpected and made perfect sense. And the ending? Oh, the ending! It was perfect for the story and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

2. Thoughts on the characters

As a main character, Collette is a wonderful one to follow. She is reserved, but as a product of her early life. She doesn’t trust easily and yet she so desperately wants to trust. She is one to adapt to what life throws at her rather than fight it. As we get to see her grow throughout the novel, I found it was the little things that made her a character worth reading. The way she eats her food, the way she talks to people, where she goes to think. All of these traits and more are well thought out and put together in a character I really liked. 

Most importantly, though, when we see Collette in action, her thoughts and reactions and actions all make sense. There’s nothing that seems wildly out of character. She acts as you would expect a person to act under similar circumstances. All of these things make her pop right off the page.

3. Favourite part

As much as I liked the plot and the characters, my favourite part is the description of the foods. Oh my! I really enjoy reading descriptions of food because they help to both illuminate how the character sees things, and also they depict the world in a way that is specific to a sense people often overlook: taste. Also, I just really like food. 

4. Critique

If I have one critique about this novel, it is that there are certain points near the 75% mark that start bringing up questions of, “Oh, but that doesn’t work unless you take x, y, or z into account.” This is more a matter of such things like, a character would freeze if exposed to certain temperatures for a certain amount of time, or fire doesn’t spread that way (just examples, not actually in the book). However, almost as soon as I started thinking such a thing, the novel addressed each issue in such a way that made perfect sense and progressed the story. So…my critique is moot. 🙂

Overall, I really like Oath. I like seeing the benefits and consequences of people’s choices thought out in a well woven, well told story. The characters were likeable (except one, but that’s on purpose) and the story was interesting. I would say that this was a very good story indeed!

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