I’m utterly befuddled by how it happened. Jackie @ Death By Tsundoku and I have read twenty-six books in the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey. The author published her first Valdemar novel in 1987 and her most recent in 2020. We have reviewed all twenty-six books. We’ve written discussion posts, held informal book clubs in person and over video chat, and planned posting schedules, graphics, and prizes. It’s important to look back at what you’ve done to get a sense of where you want to go. Thus, Jackie and I answered these same questions on our blogs in order to reflect and calibrate expectations. To check out Jackie’s responses, check out this link.
Which of our ten Valdemar books emotionally impacted you (positively or negatively) the most in 2020?
The one book in which Lackey did a departure from previous Valdemar novels was The Silver Gryphon. This story is a survival tale: a young gryphon and human, who set out to prove themselves to their legendary parents, crash into a rain forest and then are stalked by an unknown enemy for days. Because I didn’t know what was tracking them, and both were injured and without essential supplies, I was emotionally invested in what happened! For some readers, the very un-Valdemar feel to the book was a turn off, but I felt Lackey stretched herself by writing a new setting and two new characters.
Which one of the ten books were the most enjoyable to read?
I was having the most fun reading Take a Thief, the story of Skif, an unloved and abused little boy living in the slums in the outskirts of Valdemar’s capital. He’s taken in by friendly thieves that teach him survival skills, burgling techniques, and show him true affection.
Actually, this book reminded me of the musical Oliver! that I saw last summer, so I picked up Oliver Twist afterward and started reading it to my spouse. Turns out, while Skif’s band of thieves are caring, congenial misfits, the group in Dickens’s novel are all horrid monsters trafficking children.
But then Skif is Chosen and heads to the capital for Herald training. There, he keeps his playful, thieving skills as a way to win over friends, never keeping what he pickpockets and instead getting a laugh out of folks.
Did you have a favorite character in 2020?
Alberich, who is Chosen and becomes the Heralds’ weaponsmaster, is an outsider from the start because he was born in Karse, sworn enemy of Valdemar. His origin, detailed in Exile’s Honor, means others mistrust him, though they know no one is Chosen in error. However, he comes with skills. He is not a child or a tween; he is a grown man and leader of an army in Karse. Thus, Alberich’s personality is mostly formed, but leaves room to question: can he live in Valdemar and love Karse people? Can he worship the Sunlord he was taught to praise in Karse?
Not only is Alberich thoughtful, but half of his job is spying to find trouble before it starts, adopting various personalities he carefully crafts to create information networks. We see him in action as a spy more in Exile’s Valor. No other Herald does this.
Look back at your hopes for #ReadingValdemar in our wrap-up post of 2019. Were those hopes fulfilled?
I was exciting to read the origin trilogy, The Mage Wars, to see how the storms that appear in later books began. Unfortunately, the majority of the war doesn’t exist in fiction. Readers begin The Black Gryphon at the end of the war, meaning we miss why two powerful mages were battling in the first place. The White Gryphon felt like a filler book that had little to do with The Mage Wars, and The Silver Gryphon, though enjoyable, was a generation removed from the wars.
I wanted to know more about Skif and Alberich, and I wanted their books to match the characters Lackey developed in her first-ever published trilogy, back in the 1980s: Heralds of Valdemar. She delivered! Learning where Skif and Alberich come from, and having the two meet and work together, was exactly what I wanted.
I was excited to read about Lavan Firestorm in Brightly Burning. Though the story was mediocre for me (the tale of Lavan being more interesting than an entire novel that seemed similar to many other Herald origin stories), it fit Lackey’s style and world building in other Valdemar novels.
Lastly, I expressed my excitement that we would get to know Tarma and Kethry in the Vows and Honor trilogy. Each woman was written as her own person, and the characters had unique functions in their adventures, one being a warrior and the other a mage. However, the rape and murder of women as a constant plot point bummed me out and gave me the same icky vibes I felt in the 2019 The Mage Winds trilogy.
What are your hopes for #ReadingValdemar 2021?
Get rid of rape and pornographic torture as the catalyst for a villain. That’s the most important for me!
All the books we’re reading in 2021 are Lackey’s most recently published in the Valdemar series (2008-2020), so I’m hoping for a more mature writing style and better plotting. The first series is a quintet called The Collegium Chronicles. It’s set in the schools for Heralds, Healers, and Bards and is told through the eyes of a former slave named Mags, giving readers a new perspective. The next trilogy, Herald Spy, continues to follow Mags, now a trained Herald spy (like Alberich!). And the last trilogy, Family Spies, is about Mags’s children, who are the next generation of trained spies. So, I suppose my big hope is I’m truly endeared to Mags, or 2021 is going to be a massive bummer.
So, that’s it for #ReadingValdemar 2020! But the adventure is not over yet. We have one more year. Will you join us? Lackey writes books such that you can jump into any series. If you’ve been thinking about it, 2021 is the time. New to Valdemar? No problem! Fellow fan who hasn’t kept up in recent years? 2021 is a good time to read with friends. Given that these are the newest novels in the Valdemar series, you’ll likely be able to access them at the local library:
I love how different your answers are compared to mine!
Good point about needing to be endeared to Mags or we will dislike the entire back half of 2021 reading… XD I felt similarly… but I might be able to get around Mags if I like the spying enough? This is a lot of spying!
I cannot BELIEVE I didn’t mention removing rape and pornographic torture as a plot point! Shame on me. Obviously, I don’t want that. Like. Ever. In anything. Yuck.
I’m not surprised we both decided Alberich is our favorite. I mean, come on. But I feel like we found different things we loved about him. This makes me happy. It shows that while we enjoy similar things our perspectives are diverse enough that we’re always able to learn from each other. That’s one of my favorite things about buddy reads.
To 2021! No rape, enjoyable spying, and succinct writing/plotting. 😉
Although sexual assault is awful, in Lackey’s world it’s gone to this place in my head where that whole tie-her-to-the-train-tracks trope lives. It just feels over-dramatic, silly, and too “mwa-ha-ha-ha.”
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That too, for sure. I roll my eyes when it’s used as a plot point now. Though, that one story in the Tarma and Kethry collection was really bad. Like. Maybe the worst of all the Valdemar-rape-as-a-plot-point moments.
The more we write back and forth about it, the more I think about why the Valdemar rape scenes both don’t bother me AND make me roll me eyes, because those are two responses I should NOT be having. I think I get the reaction I do because it’s so tied-to-the-tracks, like I said, but also, the characters don’t face any emotional or physical repercussions. It’s like it never happened, other than being mentioned. Is it possible that Lackey makes rape sound….”too easy,” for lack of a better phrase? Like it doesn’t impact the victim?
Wow, twenty-six books! That’s amazing. It must be so nice to have company on an extensive project like this. Otherwise it could get lonely. (Or, abandoned! LOL)
It is so nice to have Jackie along. While I may not have abandoned the project itself, I probably would have started feeling self-conscious about reviewing the books, asking myself if anyone is interested. However, every so often I get a random person who writes on one of my Valdemar posts, and I feel validated again.
I actually lost interest after collegium trilogy. Thought it silly to usurp the kings own with his daughter. Missed his healer friend bear in other stories.
The part in which Amily becomes King’s Own and then her dad survived felt like a giant metaphor for asking older folks to retire already. We young people need jobs, and many of them are held by folks in their 60s, 70s, and sometimes 80s! I’m coming from an academic background and thinking of the professors I’ve worked with.
I did enjoy Bear but never really “felt” it when he got so mad at Mags. Part of my problem might be those characters were all hard to picture, especially since we didn’t know their ages at almost any point.
I will say Family Spies really picked up and did some cool new stuff. Will you get back into Valdemar at some point?