Several Heralds with the Gift of ForeSight have spoken: someone of foreign origin will be covered in blood with a knife in their hands next to the King of Valdemar. The ForeSight Gift can be tricky — what a person does changes what happens in the future, and the vision may be symbolic instead of literal. Also, there’s no context for what is Seen. That doesn’t make a difference when all eyes turn on Herald Trainee Mags, of unknown origins. Digging through the palace archives makes it no better because Mags discovers his deceased parents were foreigners in Valdemar, even though they died saving others. Mags and his Companion, Dallen, try to distract themselves practicing a new sport that replicates battles on a war field. He also attempts to cheer his friends Lena and Bear, who have problems with their families insisting the youngsters don’t live up to expectations. As things grow more tense and Mags’s friends reject him, a terrible accident determines the Trainee’s mind as to his place at the Collegium.
HIGHS & LOWS
Several elements of Lackey’s second book in the Collegium Chronicles stood out to me in a good way. First, most Companions seem the same: prancy, loyal, vain. Mags’s Companion, Dallen, breaks out in Intrigues with a sense of humor. After Mags heads to the Companion stable with two apple pocket pies, one for him and the other for Dallen, they have a serious discussion about Mags’s lack of social know-how. Living as a slave in a mine his whole life means he wasn’t exposed to manners and expectations: “He was never quite sure of exactly what it was he had done or said when he violated some code or guideline for behavior that others just took for granted.” Dallen describes what it means to “muddle through” with the knowledge that Mags was Chosen by an ethereal spirit in the avatar of a white horse to be at the Collegium to train to be a Herald and mete out justice, be noble, strong, brave, helpful. The conversation concludes with a burst of Dallen’s personality:
Dallen raised his head and looked regal. :You can mock. But answer me one important question, if you will.:
Dallen lowered his head and looked his young trainee hard in the eye. :Are you actually going to eat that other half of your pie?: he queried, pointedly. :Because if you’re not . . . :
Such shifts from dark, serious topics to something more amusing become Dallen’s trademark in Intrigues, giving him a stand-out personality among other Companions.
Lackey seems to have caught on to the idea that Companions and Heralds should have similar personalities because it gives readers an inkling of why each person was Chosen. Mags, ever a serious tween trying to do good, also notes when his friend Lena locks herself in her room after she has a bad moment with her father that it must be serious because she’s missed dinner, and it’s beef night. Lackey’s choice to include little spurts of humor in both Dallen and Mags that mirror personalities gave the characters something different and a clearer bond.
Intrigues is more plot-driven than Foundation, which means Lackey did something to keep me turning pages. Wondering if the ForeSeers actually Saw Mags with the King, blood on his hands, and a knife introduced an engaging mystery plot. Readers familiar with tales of Heralds know there’s almost no way anyone would believe a Herald would be capable of murdering his/her King. Except . . . that old story about Herald Tylendel, whose murder-revenge plot was so egregious that his Companion repudiated him. This one historical example makes everyone at the Collegium eyeball Mags, as a precedent has been set. Would Lackey take us through such a harrowing situation again?
There’s also quite a bit about Mags’s friends turning on him. They feel he needs to get over his past as a slave, move on, in fact. His success in the war games makes him a momentary Collegium legend, and Mags’s friends feel that, too, has gone to his head despite any evidence. Jealousy and selfishness create a rift among the three teens, yet I was surprised that Lackey didn’t make the trio steadfastly good, as she is wont to do. I half wondered if Mags just needed to find a new group and ditch some folks, like we do in the real world.
Rarely do I read a book with teens friends who do not forgive one another after any moments of betrayal, abandonment, or mistreatment. Consider Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy in which lifelong high school best friends separate because Willowdean can’t seem to share Ellen with a new girl. There’s also This One Summer, a graphic novel by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki in which Rose’s and Windy’s families spend the summer at the same beach. The girls are inseparable summer friends until Windy scolds Rose for calling older teen girls sluts and drunks. But, the meanness comes from deeper issues, so Windy forgives Rose’s erratic spitefulness. Have you ever read a book in which teenage best friends don’t forgive one another? Should such plots exist in fiction? Consider friends you broke off with when you were a teen.