What Came Before in the Series:
The first trilogy in the Valdemar Universe is referred to as The Heralds of Valdemar. All three books are about Talia, a shy teen Chosen by a Companion to be a Herald. The Heralds all have Gifts (abilities), and Talia’s is Empathy. But the Mage Gift (magic) has long been dead. Or so they all thought.
Where We Are in the Series: Magic’s Pawn
You guys, #ReadingValdemar has started the second trilogy — known as The Last Herald Mage! We go back hundreds of years in time to meet Vanyel, the powerful Herald Mage who young Talia read about in The Heralds of Valdemar. And based on the title of Vanyel’s trilogy, readers can assume they’re going to learn why he’s the last.
In the beginning of Magic’s Pawn Vanyel, the young heir to his father’s holding, is trying a different method of sword fighting than the broadsword method his armsmaster is teaching the young ones. Vanyel is a thin, delicate fifteen-year-old boy who has no business wearing a suit of armor and carrying a caveman-club of a sword. But when the armsmaster, a battle-experienced bully, takes on this waif of a boy, Vanyel’s arm gets broken. Vanyel’s one love is playing music, and now who knows.
Concerned that his son is weak and stuck up and possibly gay, Vanyel’s father sends the boy to his sister in the capitol, a curmudgeonly Herald Savil. Right away, I knew something was different, for in the previous trilogy no one would speak of a Herald that way, nor would she behave as such. But this is a sort of dark ages, and things are different. Vanyel arrives at the capitol and does his best to preen and peacock and keep everyone out to deny his loneliness while Savil just wants him out from underfoot.
While there is still a court and classes for Heralds, Bards, and Healers in Magic’s Pawn, nothing feels as organized and polished as the Collegium during Talia’s time period. In fact, the Collegium doesn’t exist yet — that will come later. There are also special rooms for training with magic. Lackey clarifies a bit that Gifts are abilities, whereas Magic requires a Mage Gift, pulling on energies, and spells. The most memorable spells in Magic’s Pawn are creating Gates (like a portal) and calling on wyrsa (creatures like demons).
Vanyel is enrolled in classes and tested to see if he could become a Bard. Unfortunately, he does not have the Gift, and life seems meaningless. While Vanyel thinks this is as low as he can sink, so many other wonderful and tragic things will happen long before he is Chosen by Yfandes.
Magic’s Pawn is decidedly different in tone than the previous trilogy. Mercedes Lackey sticks with limited third-person omniscient, but makes an odd choices to deliver characters’ thoughts in first-person using italics. You’ll see this occasionally in books, but not to the extent that Lackey uses the tool. You can open Magic’s Pawn to any page and see italics everywhere. The choice is clunky, like Lackey decided to write one way but didn’t want to stick with it.
The problem is what her choice does to characterization. While Talia was scared and intimidated, she kept those thoughts to herself. Because we constantly read Vanyel’s thoughts, he begins to sound whiny, emo, a little like Culture Club. Granted, he’s a scared gay teen, and I totally understood his terror and feelings of hopelessness when I first read this book 18 years ago, but now it reads more like drama drama drama inside his head.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t wrapped up in what would happen next. Right away, Lackey stars killing off characters, breaking the rules of Heralds, and taking readers to new lands, such as the K’treva Vale where the Tayledras Moondance and Starwind, two of the highest class of those who have the Mage Gift, live. The Tayledras have their own customs and language, which I love! Many of the non-English words Savil adds to her conversations were learned from her time with the Tayledras. They’re akin to an indigenous eco-conscious tribe. Lackey again expands her setting and characters in this novel, and I can easily see how this world sprawls into dozens of other books.
I was surprised to realized that most of what I remember from reading Vanyel’s trilogy 18 years ago all took place in this first book. There are two more to go, so what’s going to happen? I can’t wait to find out.
What Comes Next in the Series:
- Magic’s Promise, still starring Vanyel
- Magic’s Price, still about Vanyel and the conclusion to the trilogy known as The Last Herald Mage.
Are you following along with #ReadingValdemar? Don’t forget to include links to your Valdemar posts so my co-host, Jackie, and I can read your thoughts and get you entered in our June giveaway for $20 to an online bookstore.