For other uses of 'By the Sword,' see the disambiguation page.

In addition to Kerowyn's story, By the Sword fills in some gaps in the Valdemar novels: it shows what happened to Tarma and Kethry after the end of the Vows and Honor series, and it also reveals more about the background of Queen Selenay's treacherous husband Karathanelan (Elspeth's father).[1]

The novel is divided into three parts: Kerowyn's Ride, Two-Edged Blade, and The Price of Command.

Synopsis Edit

The teenage daughter of a minor nobleman, Kerowyn has been in charge of managing her father Rathgar's household since her mother Lenore's death, but hates the life of a noblewoman and would rather learn to fight and to work with horses. She is more than ready to hand the responsibilities of the household over to her younger brother Lordan's new wife Dierna, but the keep is attacked during the wedding feast and the bride is kidnapped. Her father is dead, her brother is badly wounded, and no able-bodied man is available to rescue Dierna. Kero goes to her estranged grandmother, mage Kethryveris, for help, and Kethry gives her the magical sword Need. Kero rides after the bandits herself (watched over, unbeknownst to her, by Kethry's Shin'a'in partner Tarma) and successfully rescues Dierna. The adventure is later immortalized in a song called "Kerowyn's Ride."

Following the rescue, Kero finds that she is both a hero and an embarrassment to her brother. She leaves to live with Kethry and Tarma, becoming Tarma's student in the arts of warfare, and learning to control her mind-magic from Tarma's kyree partner Warrl. In the course of her training Kero meets Prince Darenthallis, third son of the king of Rethwellan and another of Tarma's students; after a period of mutual antagonism, the two of them eventually become friends, and then lovers. But when Daren's father dies and his older brother Faramentha takes the throne, Daren is called back to be Lord Marshal. Kero refuses to go with him to Rethwellan, unwilling to sacrifice her freedom and return to the life of a noblewoman for the sake of maintaining their relationship. Instead, upon completing her training with Tarma, Kero joins the mercenary company known as the Skybolts.

For years, Kerowyn grows in skill and in standing within the company. During a campaign against Karse, disaster strikes and Kero ends up separated from the rest of the company, fleeing farther and farther north into Karse. Ultimately she encounters a group of Karsites who have captured and are planning to torture Herald Eldan. Securing Eldan's promise to pay her for it, she rescues him from the Karsites and the two of them flee together.

Kero and Eldan quickly fall in love, but when she realizes that the Karsite sun-priestesses are somehow tracking Need's presence, she sneaks away in the night, drawing the Karsites away and leaving Eldan to make his way north back to Valdemar. After a hard journey she returns to the Skybolts. Through her intervention, the Skybolts escape ruin by a selfish Captain, and Kero herself takes the Captaincy.


Cover of the French edition

Ten years pass. The Skybolts are a formidable company under Kero, and they win a decisive battle for Rethwellan against Karse. Kero meets Daren again, who brings her home to meet his brother. While she is at the court, Herald Talia and Herald Dirk arrive, seeking aid. Prince Ancar of Hardorn is making war against Valdemar, using men who are being controlled by magic as soldiers. Valdemar has had no experience with magic since the time of Vanyel, and more importantly, they do not have a large enough army. Kerowyn volunteers the Skybolts as an advance force, while Rethwellan promises a second force with Daren to follow.

In Valdemar, Kero is reunited with Eldan, whom she has not been able to forget. But Ancar's forces seem limitless, and Kero is unable to bring her own mages across the Valdemar border. The Skybolts, to a man, sympathize with Valdemar and their cause, and the forces prepare for what looks like their final stand. With perfect dramatic timing, Daren arrives with the Rethwellan army and a number of Ancar's soldiers, now freed from the controlling spell. Ancar's troops are driven off. In the chaos of the battle, both Kero and Daren are Chosen by Companions, making them Heralds. Daren and Selenay meet on the battlefield and fall instantly in love.

In gratitude, Selenay gives the Skybolts a border town in Valdemar, Bolton, to use as their home base. Kerowyn is able to remain with Eldan while fulfilling her duties as a Captain and a Herald.

Characters Edit

  • Kerowyn
  • Derk - kitchen servant
  • Perry - a page
  • Ami - kitchen servant
  • Dierna - Kerown's brother's bridd
  • Wendar - Rathgar's seneschal
  • Rathgar - Kerowyn's father
  • Lord Orsen Brodey - Dierna's father
  • Lordan - Kerowyn's brother
  • LadyTrine - goddess of a religion in Rethwellan
  • Agnira - maiden aspect of LadyTrine
  • Agnetha - mother aspect of LadyTrine
  • Agnoma - crone aspect of LadyTrine
  • Lenore - Kerowyn's deceased mother, Kethry's daughter
  • Dent - Rathgar's Armsmaster
  • Mistress Dunwythie - matriarch of the Dunwythie family
  • Hewerd - one of Rathgar's armsmen
  • Lord Baron Reichert - Dierna's scheming uncle
  • Kethry - Kerowyn's grandmother
  • Verenna - Kerowyn's Shin'a'in saddle-mare
  • Tarma shena Tale'sedrin - Kethry's oathsister
  • Need - a magical sword
  • Warrl - Tarma's kyree partner
  • Hellsbane (IV) - Tarma's, then Kerowyn's, battlesteed
  • Lyla Stormcloud - a trained Shin'a'in assassin hired by Tarma as a guard
  • Jadrek - Kethry's son, a Tale'sedrin shaman
  • Jendar - Kethry's son, a mage
  • Lythand family - Rethwellan gentry family who fostered Lenore
  • Megrarthon Jadrevalyn - King of Rethwellan, father of Faramentha, Karathanelan, and Darenthallis
  • Faramentha Jadrevalyn - subsequent King of Rethwellan
  • Karathanelan Jadrevalyn - treacherous Prince who marries Queen Selenay
  • Darenthallis Jadrevalyn - Prince who trained with Kerowyn
  • Ironheart - Kethry's battlesteed
  • Captain Lerryn Twoblades
  • Shallan - a scout in the Skybolts
  • Gies - a scout in the Skybolts
  • Tre - a scout in the Skybolts; Gies' twin brother
  • Saint Keshal - mentioned in a curse
  • Relli - a scout in the Skybolts
  • Hagen - a scout officer in the Skybolts
  • Icolan Ar Perdin - second in command of the Skybolts under Captain Lerryn
  • Tarres - hedge-wizard with the Skybolts under Captain Lerryn
  • Lyr - scoutmaster of the Skybolts under Captain Lerryn
  • Tobe - a mercenary with the Skybolts
  • Herald Eldan - Kerowyn's love interest
  • Companion Ratha - Eldan's Companion
  • Ardana Flinteyes - a low-ranking officer who became an inept Captain of the Skybolts
  • Willi - the company accountant for the Skybolts
  • Eren - the company Healer for the Skybolts
  • Rudi - owner and operator of an Inn
  • Guardsman Dane - Rethwellan town guard who attacked Kerowyn
  • Hellsbane (V) - Kerowyn's battlesteed
  • Kynan - an officer with the Skybolts
  • Scratcher - the accountant and quartermaster for the Skybolts
  • Hovan - an apprentice-Healer with the Skybolts
  • Raslir - Kerowyn's orderly
  • Quenten - a mage with the Skybolts, trained by Jendar
  • Geyr - co-commander of Skybolts spscialists, in charge of messenger dogs
  • Bel - a scout-lieutenant with the Skybolts
  • Dende - a mercenary with the Skybolts
  • Losh - commander of Skybolts specialists, later commander of horse-archers
  • Jana - a junior mage with the Skybolts
  • Lord Vaul - Daren's predecessor as Lord Martial of Rethwellan
  • Binn - Lord Martial Daren's orderly
  • Kra'heera - a Tale'sedrin shaman
  • Istren - a Tale'sedrin horse trainer, Kethry's grandson
  • Sa'dassan - a Tale'sedrin horse trainer
  • Laker - a mercenary with the Skybolts
  • Lord Baron Dudlyn - Rethwellan noble who did not approve of Captain Kerowyn
  • Lady Sarnedelia - Rethwellan noble who did approve of Captain Kerowyn
  • Randel - Rethwellan nobleman
  • Herald Talia - Queen's Own to Selenay
  • Herald Dirk - Talia's husband
  • Holard - Kerowyn's orderly
  • Arnod - a junior mage with the Skybolts
  • Queen Selenay of Valdemar
  • Princess Elspeth of Valdemar
  • Lord Randon - Lord Marshal for Selenay
  • Hadli - a junior mage with the Skybolts
  • Gem - a junior mage with the Skybolts
  • Myrqan - a junior mage with the Skybolts
  • Companion Jasan - Daren's Companion
  • Companion Sayvil - Kerowyn's Companion

Japanese cover of By the Sword

Places Edit

  • Rethwellan - the country south of Valdemar
  • Rathgar's keep, Rethwellan - Kerowyn's home
  • Kethry's Tower, Rethwellan - where Tarma and Kethry live since giving Rathgar the keep
  • Menmellith - a small country sandwiched between Rethwellan, Valdemar and Karse
  • Abevell, Menmellith
  • Karse - the country southeast of Valdemar and its' frequent enemy
  • Ruvan - the country south of Karse, southeast of Rethwellan
  • Seejay - the country south of Ruvan
  • Bolthaven, Rethwellan - a town on the southwest border, home of the Skybolts
  • Petras, Rethwellan - capital of Rethwellan
  • Valdemar
  • Iftel - a country east-northeast of Valdemar, north of Hardorn
  • Hardorn - a country east-southeast of Valdemar, north of Karse
  • Herald's Collegium, Haven, Valdemar
  • Bolton, Valdemar - a border town awarded to the Skybolts

Terminology Edit


Kerowyn's Ride (song)

By the Sword (album)


  1. The details of the attempted assassination of Queen Selenay are filled in more clearly in a book centered on Weaponsmaster Alberich (Exile's Valor).

See Also Edit