We don’t think a lot about feudalism or fealty much these days. We just don’t organize our societies that way anymore. So it’s no wonder that Zhorzha (call her Zee) has no idea what to do with Gentry in Bryn Greenwood’s amazing, beautiful novel The Reckless Oath We Made. At first, she thought Gentry was a stalker. It turns out that Gentry is her self-appointed champion. And Zee is definitely going to need a champion.
We meet Zee under less than auspicious circumstances. She’s on the train (with her young nephew, since her sister didn’t come home) to deliver two suitcases full of marijuana to a dealer. After she returns, with said nephew, she finds out that the reason her sister didn’t come home was because she got caught up in a prison break. As if Zee’s life wasn’t complicated enough (perpetual pain from a motorcycle accident, job that doesn’t pay enough to get her own place, mother who is a severe hoarder with health problems), now she has to deal with nosy police, keeping an eye on her nephew, and figuring out what the hell happened to her sister.
I don’t think Zee would have made it out the other side without Gentry. Although Zee is a strong woman, who has weathered a lot in her young life, Gentry is doing his best to be an actual night in shining armor. He speaks in archaic English and is a fan of knightly legends. When his foster parents introduced him to the Society for Creative Anachronism, it was all over: Gentry had found an identity and a purpose in life. These two things help him deal with his neurodiversity and the voices who guide and advise him (for better or worse). The two are certainly an odd couple, but they learn that they need each other. Their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses compliment each other.
Not only do we get to see two very different characters work out how to be together, we also get a chance to think about obligations and what we owe each other. It might seem nice to have a knight at our beck and call, who really can beat the crap out of other people if we ask. But, as Zee learns, that is a lot of power to hold. While Gentry says that he is Zee’s champion and her servant, she also has some responsibilities to keep him safe. This is how a solid, good (considering that we’re talking about feudalism) feudal relationship is supposed to work. The vassal follows their liege’s commands…but their liege is supposed to try to keep their vassals out of harm’s way as much as possible.
The Reckless Oath We Made is an amazing ride of a book and I adored the vibrant characters. Zee and Gentry are incredible and I loved watching them negotiate them their relationship and boundaries. To be honest, the larger plot sometimes disappeared from my attention as the two worked out how to be together. I genuinely loved this book and I’m glad I got a chance to read it early, so that I can tell other readers about this.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.