Conversation Post: Storm Rising by Mercedes Lackey, part of #ReadingValdemar in 2019

In today’s post, Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku and I discuss our reaction to how author Mercedes Lackey writes about magical anthropomorphized animals, including (loosely defined) a horse, cats, and a raptor. All of Lackey’s “talking” animals are magical, but how are they used in her novel Storm Rising?

Jackie: Melanie! This book won’t leave my head for so many reasons. Let’s start with the introduction to Storm Rising. In it, Karal is being coached on honorifics and the like from Florian. Unable to contain all the information, Florian offers to mind-meld (or whatever) with Karal. They do it, and it’s amazing—- and then we NEVER HEARD OF IT AGAIN. What the eff.

Melanie: Miss Jackie, I can tell this book has gotten under your skin based on your review, conversations we’ve had, and your very first question! I was under the impression that Florian was just always there, and that’s how he knew what was happening at the envoy council meetings. However, I agree that Lackey could have handled this better by having Florian comment in Karal’s head as Florian “watched.” What if Florian had said something reassuring as the Shin’a’in envoy accused Karal being a traitor, a spy, and an ineffectual child? There are several magical animals in Storm Rising for us to ponder!

Jackie: Where you thought Florian was always there, I thought he wasn’t. But, if we’re assuming Lackey wanted the reader to know Florian was sharing Karal’s experiences during the Grand Council meetings, I would have expected some more dialogue between Florian and Karal throughout the novel. Snippets of conversation where Florian offers advice, or drops a title for Karal to reference, etc. Florian and Alta seem to have no problem making their opinion known in other situations, so why not in the Grand Council meetings? But, if what I thought was true, that Florian wasn’t present, I would have expected Karal to make a comment about regretting not sharing his mind with Florian during some important moment where a detail leaves him, or to thank Florian for such successful training because he survived his Grand Council meetings as expected.

Here we see Florian the Companion, Alta the Firecat, and Karal the Karsite sun priest.

Melanie: Another place where I felt the bond animals could have been used better was with Aya and his concerns about Firesong headed down a dangerous magical path. Yes, he makes squawks to show nervousness, but this is a bondbird that should be exceptional. Aya is the first of his kind, as he was created by Firesong; he was not found like Darkwind’s father’s new bondbird in the MAGE WINDS series. Thus, why not create a creature that is communicative like the Companions? I wonder how a “verbal” Aya would have changed those scenes with Firesong as he explores the path of a deceased blood mage.

Jackie: Exactly! It was weird to me that Aya wasn’t verbal. However, I only thought that in retrospect, when writing my review. At the time, I imagined that Firesong was so deep in his own toxic emotions that he couldn’t “hear” Aya appropriately. Otherwise, how else could he have done such awful things to her?!

And Alta. I honestly wasn’t certain what Lackey was doing with his character. He’s aloof, then he’s helpful. He’s sassy, then he’s concerned and polite. Is it because I’ve never had a cat? I just don’t know where Lackey is going with Alta. To me, he felt less like a character and more like a plot device.

Melanie: Ha! Alta is definitely very cat-like. I mean, my cat likes pats and then turns to look at me and bites me hand. Kitty, why you do me like that?! But the thing I can’t wrap my mind around is how these Firecats are supposed to be reincarnated Sun Priests, so you’d think they’d be more human-y and less cat-y (get it? catty?). However, my interest with Alta is directed more toward the way Lackey implies that Alta is also helping someone else. He disappears for a long time but promises that if something bad were to happen to Karal, he would be right there in time. What other mission is he doing? Is he speaking with the Son of the Sun, Solaris? or another Sun Priest? or is he diddling off in some separate dimension like Falconsbane used to? I hope we find out in Storm Breaking.

Solaris, Karal, and two Companions (which two??). No sign of Hansa or Alta!

Jackie: Hm. I always assumed Alta was off chattin’ with Vkandis for some reason. My brain made that assumption, but you’re right that it’s never explicitly stated. I imagine there are all these grand plans happening in the Valdemar-Universe-version-of-Mount-Olympus where the Star-Eyed Goddess and Vkandis and whomever is watching over Valdemar are all watching these events play out. Ha. That’s probably wrong. I agree that this is a mystery I hope we see resolved in Storm Breaking.

One final space I want to address is Lackey’s use, or lack of us, of Hansa. Hansa is the Firecat that accompanies Solaris. In Storm Rising, we finally get to meet him! Yay! However, Hansa feels extraordinarily underutilized. There is a great opportunity here to explore the Firecats, Karse, and the entire Vkandis-Sun religion. If Hansa had spoken up more, he could have provided not only more information about these topics, but potentially some misdirection or even more mystery to who and what the Firecats and Companions are! His presence could have been omitted from Storm Rising entirely, and I don’t believe the story would have changed other than how Solaris manages to travel to Valdemar. Who knows, perhaps Alta and Hansa actually disagree on important issues and Alta is a renegade! Alas, we shall potentially never know.

Melanie: Based on the cover of Storm Rising, I thought there would be more Solaris and religion in this novel. Let’s put a pin in it and consider discussing the function of religion, deities, and respecting other’s faith while believing in their own religion after we finish the trilogy.

I assume that’s Karal and Florian. I’m wondering if their relationship grows or changes in the third novel.


  1. That was a really weird discussion for a non-fantasy reader. But fun! Speaking of respecting other peoples religions, it felt a little like listening in on theologians discussing how many angels fit on the head of a pin.


    • Lackey’s series has several religions with evidence that the god of the religion is real — as in he/she/it makes an appearance. However, Valdemar has this rule about respecting every religion. I would think that religion of Karse would make more of an appearance in this trilogy, and Jackie did too, because the high priestess of Karse is on the cover.


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