Kazi's grief and Jase's worry are palpable, neither one knowing if the other yet lives. Their heartache and fear pulses on every page, and I loved the steady back-and-forth of POV, watching them slowly spiral back toward one another. Allies (and enemies) are found in unexpected places, and one in particular really made me happy. I always love when a previously-assumed antagonist has a bit of backstory reveal and ends up being a good guy. I also really enjoyed the side-relationships in this one. Especially a certain bubbly rahtan and her surly Ballenger counterpart. (Ugh, that ending got me right in the feels!)
This duo of lovely novels has a lot to offer: strong, diverse characters, concise yet powerful action scenes, emotional conflict, a complex world, a bit of dubious magic, sweet, realistic romance...the list goes ON, people. But apart from all these things, and setting Pearson's economical-yet-elegant prose aside, there is one thing that really sets this story apart for me: family.
The theme of family lies at the heart of this tale, and it is threaded through both books with such gravity and subtlety that I closed Vow with an aching heart. You can feel Jase's devotion to it, his every breath dedicated to the endurance of his kin. You can feel Kazi's fear of it, her hunger for it after a lifetime of loneliness. This concept that she is barely beginning to grasp at the start of Vow becomes a double-edged sword that nearly costs the fearless Rahtan her life more than once. But it also saves her, and Jase, multiple times. Without it, they are so much less than they are with all of the Ballenger siblings and Kazi's comrades thrown in. There is a warmth in it, a strength, a depth, in that cumulative relationship that I find myself unable to adequately describe. For that alone, I would set this duology firmly on my permanent shelf and happily recommend it to others.