Magic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey, part of #ReadingValdemar in 2019

Where We’ve Come From:

The Heralds of Valdemar: a trilogy that establishes what Valdemar is like hundreds of years in the future of the book I’m reviewing today. You learn about heralds, Companions, Gifts, and the kingdom.

The Last Herald Mage: a trilogy that takes place hundreds of years before The Heralds of Valdemar and introduces readers to the mage gift, which allows certain folks to utilize magic energy. Vanyel is one of few Herald Mages left, and many evil forces threaten the lands.

Today’s Book:

Magic’s Price is the last book in The Last Herald Mage trilogy. Because the first book, Magic’s Promise, introduced us to half a dozen herald mages, it was easy to assume they’d all have to die so Vanyel could be the last one around. And in Magic’s Price, the deaths begin. . .

Maybe this is what Stefen would look like if he were real? I love finding pics to go with Mercedes Lackey characters, lol. Photo credit.

Vanyel, always overworked, is now stressed because his king is on his death bed. The healers don’t know what ails him and cannot relieve his pain without strong drugs. Then, Vanyel is approached and told of a bard named Stefen who can sing away pain. Doubtful, Vanyel has the seventeen-year-old former street urchin fetched. It works! The king is able to sit up and be alert for court, making everyone feel relief and Vanyel thankful. But Stefen feels something else. Never wealthy, he cares less about royal court and more about how is heart thumps harder when Vanyel is around.

Again, Vanyel is sent home to vacation with his family, this time his aunt, herald mage Savil, and Stefen come with him. But when a blood mage attacks Vanyel on his family’s property, drastic action must happen: Vanyel moves his parents to the capitol, thinking they are safe. The rest of the book details how herald mages are killed surreptitiously, and Vanyel’s rage sends him after the powerful blood mage he has seen in his dreams since Magic’s Pawn, in which Vanyel is defeated on an ice mountain.

When I was sixteen, this book destroyed me so hard that I didn’t pick up another Lackey novel, even though I owned another trilogy. I was too tender-hearted. This time around, I knew more about the heralds hundreds of years after Vanyel’s tale ends, which gave me heart. To know that Valdemar is more organized and the Companions still bond with a Chosen who is trained to be a herald made me feel lighter.

On my first reading 18 years ago, I hadn’t realized that during Vanyel’s time, heralds were seen as ersatz herald mages. Vanyel disagrees with that notion:

“. . .most mages don’t have strong Gifts in anything other than sensing and manipulating magical energy. . . .They won’t be protected against a FarSeer spying on their work — or a ThoughtSenser reading their minds. Or a Fetcher moving something they need for a spell at a critical moment.”

You can’t throw magic at everything. And so one of Vanyel’s final goals is to convince the court, the kingdom, and the heralds themselves that heralds’ don’t have to have mage Gifts to be useful — and uses bard Stefen to spread the word. Having better information made me love the book that much more, because it didn’t feel hopeless.

The narration is smoother each book, too. Lackey stops italicizing internal monologues and makes proper use of her chosen third-person point of view. As if catching on to how it’s used, she also lets readers into Stefen’s mind, and occasionally Vanyel’s aunt, Savil’s. Too much first-person internal dialogue has driven me batty in the past.

He’d have silver in his hair thanks to using magic nodes, but this is still how I picture Vanyel. Photo credit.

The political intrigue is set up clearly. Not only does a blood mage who plans to destroy Valdemar terrorize Vanyel. Neighboring Karse has a young man who has risen up and declared himself The Prophet and is against mages. Karse seems like it has been and always will be a pain in Valdemar’s arse, regardless of the century. Lackey prevents the Magic’s Price from feeling predictable by acknowledging ongoing political issues beyond the main story line.

She also lightens the story with love. Unexpected romance hits the court and surprises everyone. Also, Vanyel tries to understand bard Stefen, who is always there to help and comfort. The two enjoy each other’s company and find ease in long nights talking and drinking wine, but it’s clear Stefen wants more. Stefen’s love makes Vanyel’s efforts to save Valdemar feel worth it; it’s no longer a place with a faceless population, but a auburn-haired young man who makes beautiful music.

Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku and I will start the next trilogy in April, giving you time to find the books. Won’t you join us? Wired Magazine recommends you jump in at any point in Lackey’s Valdemar books:

Most of her books, even ones in a series featuring one character, like Vanyel, have a complete plot and character growth in each book. It’s great to read the others but a single story can be absorbed without the rest if necessary and if you don’t mind some spoilers.

If you’ve written a post about Vanyel’s story, add your link here to enter for a $20 gift card. Open to bloggers regardless of location! Old or new posts welcome.


    • It still stood the test of time, but I felt very differently about it, which surprised me. The books are good enough that it’s easy to stick to the timeline. Jackie is right there with me! Occasionally, her library takes forever to get the book to her, which is a massive frustration.

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  1. I see you are going with publication order? ^^ A very good way to see the progress in Mercedes Lackey’s work. Yep Karse is a pain in Valdemar’s ass but sometimes they are good things about Karse 😀 I won’t say more


    • I’m not sure if we’re going with publication order. I used the Valdemar wikia to help me decide what we’re doing. Here’s the order:

      The Heralds of Valdemar
      The Last Herald Mage
      The Mage Winds
      The Mage Storms
      Darian’s Tale

      Next year I’ll be reading:
      Exile’s Honor
      Exile’s Valor
      Take a Thief
      Mage Wars
      Vows and Honor
      By the Sword
      Brightly Burning
      The Collegium Chronicles
      Herald Spy

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        • Books you loved as an adolescent don’t always stand up to re-reading. I’m glad these ones have. How did you read Stefen’s feelings for Vanyel back then? I would not have noticed, but then I mightn’t have noticed second time round either.


          • I thought Stefen was quite determined, and Lackey emphasizes that he’s sexually experienced, even at 17 or 18 years old. When Vanyel starts getting determined to exact revenge on his enemy, you see glimpses of how Tylendel felt back in the first book (Magic’s Pawn), and get scared, but Stefen is a more grounded, reasonable person that Vanyel was in his shoes at that age in the same situation.


        • Ohhhh, yes, yes, I see what you mean. For some reason, I thought I was reading neither the publication nor the chronological order, but the order that various internet folks have recommended to get the most out of the series. Lackey writes like she’s creating a sprawling cityscape: the books just go in all directions.

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          • There are a lot of orders for Valdemar the best is always your own 🙂 seriously they never spoil each other except if they are really close in time. Yep sometimes it feels that way, definitely in her other series but she is still an amazing story teller in my opinion.

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