Where we’ve come from…
THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR TRILOGY: Talia’s story is important because we learn basic roles: herald, Companion, Queen’s Own, bard, healer, boarderland, Valdemar, Karse, etc. We’re barely introduced to mages, who are a surprise because it was long thought magic was dead in Talia’s time.
THE LAST HERALD MAGE TRILOGY: Mercedes Lackey takes us back hundreds of years to Vanyel’s story. In this setting “herald” means the same thing, but they don’t seem as regimented as in Talia’s time. Mages exist in different classes based on their power, and Vanyel becomes the most powerful herald-mage in all the land.
- Magic’s Pawn
- Magic’s Promise
- Magic’s Price
Review of Magic’s Promise…
While second-book slump is a flaw of most trilogies, Mercedes Lackey kicks it in high gear with Magic’s Promise and delivers a highly-engaging, action-filled fantasy mystery.
Twelve years have passed since our little brooding peacock Vanyel was Chosen by Yfandes and healed by the Tayledras. He’s spent years on the battlefield by the Karse border, nearly meeting death more times than his friends are comfortable with. However, Vanyel is still heartsick over the death of Tylendel, his lifebond. He’s so alone that he practically welcomes death. The novel starts with Vanyel returning to the capital of Valdemar. If he stays on premise, the king may be forced to send him out to battle again, so Vanyel’s encouraged to take a long vacation. . .at home. With his family at Forst Reach. With his homophobic father, smothering mother, violent armsmaster, and shifty priest.
When Vanyel gets back home to Forst Reach, much has changed. His father and brother are fighting over changing things or following tradition. His siblings have all paired off and had children, many of them bastards, running around the holding. The ladies who serve Vanyel’s mother try to convince him he’s not gay by waiting naked in his bed. His father thinks he’s a pervert, despite Vanyel’s heroics, heroics his family knows about because Bards sing songs of his battles. Basically, we’ve got a very conservative family that’s trying a teensy bit to move ahead with the times, but struggling deeply.
One night, as Vanyel settles down to sleep in the stables with Yfandes because another lady in waiting is waiting naked in his bed, Yfandes freaks out. She’s picked up a cry from another Companion, who is nearly paralyzed with terror and can’t reach his Chosen. Vanyel and Yfandes race to the call only to find a fellow herald whipping a Companion and demanding it give up its Chosen, Tashir, because he has murdered dozens of people. . .
I won’t go further into the plot so as not to spoil it for you. Magic’s Promise is full of evil blood magic (fantasy!), though there is a mystery at the heart of things (mystery!). There’s the question of Tashir. His father was king of Lineas and married a woman from the neighboring Baires to join their kingdoms. But, it’s suspected Tashir isn’t the king’s son. All peace may be destroyed — is he or isn’t he? Another mystery is why there are no mages allowed in Lineas. Lastly, is it possible that Tashir has a really out-of-control Fetching Gift that caused him to murder so many people?
I liked the mystery aspect of the novel a great deal, and when I finally got to the pages on which everything was figured out, my highlighter nearly ran dry! Having questions as the backbone of the plot drove the novel forward in a satisfactory way that could have benefited the novels in THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR trilogy.
Every good character grows in this novel, some in surprising ways that keep you on your toes. Even though Vanyel is nearing thirty, he has a hard time moving forward without Tylendel. There is a scene in which he realizes some things about love that had me crying as I contemplated life without my own spouse. I know I cried during the scene when I was sixteen, so I think it’s nothing to do with your own relationship, but contemplating that deep sadness that gets you.
The ending wraps everything up but leaves you wanting more (because there’s a third book!). There is a lovely scene that I won’t spoil that again had me sobbing. It’s a beautiful, tender moment with the most unexpected character who offers two options to Vanyel, and both are sad. That’s two sobbity-sobs. Of course, I texted Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku right away to warn her.
Although I loved this novel, many people on Goodreads have voiced concerns about the representation of gay men. Everyone thinks Vanyel will prey on teenage boys now that he’s a hot-shot hero with songs about him. Yet, the only one sexually preying on people are the women who camp out naked in Vanyel’s bed and wait for him. One boy offers his body to Vanyel as payment for music lessons because he has no money and assumes the herald-mage will take the bait. Vanyel doesn’t.
However, when Vanyel meets Tashir and notices how much his features resemble Tylendel’s, he admits he’s tempted to start something with the teen. He doesn’t. But that moment during which he mentions temptation is what bothers most reviewers. I can see why. Perhaps Lackey could have explored Vanyel’s feelings more clearly. But, I thought that he ached so badly for his lifebond that he thought momentarily about trying to recapture his youth and ease his loss in the arms of an ersatz Tylendel. He doesn’t. But does that moment ruin the whole book? I don’t think so.
There are also complaints from Goodreads reviewers that Vanyel notes too often how long he’s been celibate as evidence that he’s not promiscuous or a “pervert.” I don’t know where these readers are from, but I can’t help but notice the single people around me mentioning their lack of sex life all too often. Why can’t Vanyel? There’s also a moment when Vanyel tells a very conservative man that he’s been celibate so long that both the conservative man and the sheep are starting to look attractive. I get it. The sheep joke is not cool.
But here’s another thing I’ve noticed in real life, whether it’s about sexuality, race, or gender: the “odd” person will often make jokes that the “normal” person will like to make the “normal” person feel more at ease. It’s a survival mechanism in a world that tries to squash “otherness.” Can I know Lackey’s intentions as she wrote this novel in the late 1980s? Of course not. But I did want to address these concerns other readers have had.
Overall, I loved this book and felt sad when I turned the last page and closed the covers because the story was over. Yes, there is one more book in the trilogy, but then it’s over-over. An interesting, highly engaging read! On a fun note, Mercedes Lackey wrote songs about this trilogy, which are performed by Heather Alexander on YouTube! I especially enjoy the sadness in “Shadow Lover” (the name for Death) and “Shadow Stalker” (a nickname for Vanyel in reference to his impeccable killing skills).
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