Tarma and Kethry are unlikely companions, mage and warrior. Bound together to go against bandits, they’ve stuck together to get Tarma home to the plains to claim her birthright. There’s plenty in the way before the can fulfill that though.
It would have been nice to have a little more backstory from both Tarma and Kethry. Nevertheless, the bit you get about Tarma isn’t bad. If there’s a deficit, it’s that the magic that Kethry practices is nothing like what you see in other novels, and more of that would have been good too!
Most of the story seems to be told from the perspective of Tarma, which suits me just fine, just haven’t read a bunch about Kerowyn (Kethry’s granddaughter). Tarma is a sexless warrior, absolutely skilled in the blade. She’s not cold though, she cares about her people and Kethry.
This is the first outing of the sword, Need. Need plays an important role in ‘By the Sword’ and also the novels with Elspeth and Darkwind (the Winds trilogy).
I made the mistake of reading this, and then reading the second book straight afterwards. Now I can’t remember what I really liked about this novel! I did like it though.