Spy, Spy Again by Mercedes Lackey

SYNOPSIS

In this last of the Family Spies trilogy by Mercedes Lackey (she/her), Prince Kee and Tory have been best friends since they were born because they both grew up in the palace. Though neither has been Chosen by a Companion, they appear to share a Gift, which is unheard of. Tory has FarSight, which should allow him to see far away though he can only get it to work a few feet, and Kee boosts the Gift, making it possible to see far away. When they touch, they are able to See their family members, no matter how distant (both in distance and blood line) the relation.

This becomes important when Tory’s distant cousin from another nation is kidnapped. She is the daughter of the leader of the Sleepgiver tribe, a clan of assassins for hire. Their leader sends his son Ahkhan to say that if the kingdom of Valdemar helps rescue his daughter Sira, the Sleepgivers will forever side with Valdemar and never take a contract to assassinate a Valdemaran. The deal is too important to pass up, but who will go? Only Tory and Kee and their odd shared Gifts can find Sira. To send a prince would be ludicrous, but he is far down the line of heirs. And though Tory is the son of the King’s Own Spy, Mags, and is trained for stealth and quiet, he’s never left the capital. But who has Sira? They fear the worst: Valdemar’s sworn enemy, the nation of Karse.

HIGHS & LOWS

Once again, it’s difficult to know how old the characters are, but I’m guessing teens. Although I was enjoying this quest adventure, it would dawn on me that no real adults were present. Perhaps the Sleepgiver leader doesn’t go because he is a king in his culture, but why not include Mags or Tory’s older, more experienced brother, Perry? Basically, Lackey finds a way to get Mags’s third child to have his own adventure in this trilogy. Companions often feel like an adult presence, but because Tory and Kee have not been Chosen, Companions don’t play a large role in Spy, Spy Again. So, what you get feels a bit more like watching Katniss Everdeen run around, clever and able, but still a teen. However, when I watch Hunger Games, I never wonder where the adults are. When it’s appropriate, Lackey lets readers feel that an understanding, wise grown up would certainly benefit our young cast when they experience terror, exhaustion, and run out of ideas.

What may seem like a princess rescue novel is anything but. The Sleepgivers do not care about an assassin’s gender; in fact, Lackey notes that Sira’s mother had a higher body count when she met and felt in love with Sira’s father. Doing important work, Sira’s job is to wait for idiotic Karse priests to sneak into Sleepgiver territory and then murder them. Should we feel bad about cold-blooded murder? Wellll . . . Lackey has made it clear that the corrupt Karse reign is one of terror. Priests murder children who show signs of having Gifts or Mage abilities. They unleash demons that kill indiscriminately. So, when Sira is kidnapped by demons, readers are eager to learn how fast she’ll escape, who she’ll kill, what she’ll do.

The problem is her prison is in the middle of a desert in Karse, far from her homeland. Lackey sets up a challenge fit for a Sleepgiver, meaning readers will have trouble maintaining hope. That is, until Lackey introduces magical creatures of the four elements. Instead of reading the same survival challenges Tory’s siblings faced in The Hills Have Spies and Eye Spy, we’re treated to the talents of these elemental creatures and address problems in new ways.

One thing that irritated me was Lackey had trouble keeping her pronouns clear when dealing with three male characters and one female. In the example below, it’s tough to follow if she means Ahkhan or Tory running next to Sira:

Ahkhan did not launch into a flat-our run, as they had done yesterday, although Tory would not have been surprised if he had. He and Sira matched paces, side by side, in an identical lope made for endurance running. He and Kee followed right behind, and Tory, at least, was watching carefully to see where Ahkan put his feet so he could match that as closely as possible.

Overall, the plot had many predictable moments, but gave readers a new setting in the desert, a closer look at the reign of terror in Karse, and non-human characters powered by magic, all resulting in an interesting adventure novel that oddly gave me some Conan the Destroyer vibes.

DISCUSSION QUESTION

The setting, the princess, the mages — all of it kept making me think of Conan the Destroyer, one of my favorite high fantasy movies. What fantasy movies do you enjoy, and what kind of fantasy is it?

Updated for December schedule change

15 comments

  1. Do you have a feel for what Lackey’s readership is like? – their age and I suppose, gender profiles. The plot here feels YA. No one in real life sends teenagers out on their own to solve international problems (though all politicians seem happy to use them as cannon fodder).

    I read some SF/Fantasy. It’s a form of escapism. Anne McCaffery and the “Ranger’ books because they happened to be on the library shelves. No Lackey in our library system, or I might have read one with you.

    Like

    • I’m actually not sure what Lackey’s readership is like. Her first book came out in 1987, and it seems that teens were likely to read her work. Her books were especially impactful in the 80s because she had lesbian and gay characters at a time when it was not common. I do believe her readers have grown up with her. When I look at reviews, the readers are older.

      Spy, Spy Again does read clearly as young adult adventure/quest fiction. Jackie has maintained all the Lackey books are YA, and that may be true, but some read (to me) as more complicated/complex than a young adult audience, and in several books there are no YA characters.

      Do you ever watch science fiction or fantasy movies?

      Like

      • I typed “3d movie blue people in tree” into DuckDuckGo and it came straight up with Avatar, so there’s one. 2001 was probably the first. Dune (1984) I used to go to sleep to back when my last wife left me. I still don’t understand it. A Scanner Darkly is my favourite, unless you include The Naked Lunch, and that’s about it.

        Like

        • Wow, those are all quite different films. I feel like they’ve been working on Avatar II for ages, and some sites even say more films than that. I haven’t seen Dune, but I know folks are wild for the new one, which just came out. The movies that I watch repeatedly to match one feeling make no sense to me, either. I always watched Conan the Destroyer when I was sick (maybe because it was always on TV at 3AM when one is apt to wake throwing up?) and Dawn of the Dead (2004) when I feel lost or sad. Can’t explain either one other than the fact that I looooove Grace Jones as Zula in the Conan movie.

          Like

  2. Not a movie but Rob and I just started watching The Wheel of Time series on Prime last night, and I was really digging it! It’s been a couple of years since I read the first book in the series but I thought they were doing a pretty good job of sticking to the details. I would call it high fantasy.

    Like

  3. Even though I read a reasonable amount of fantasy, I don’t think I really tend to watch fantasy films, unless superhero films are categorised as fantasy – in which case I watch a lot of them!

    Like

    • Oh, Lou, I’m giggling! I cannot picture you watching superhero films for some reason. They drive me nuts. The thing where the jump half a mile while pulling out a sword and then stabbing someone, or the way an entire city is demolished only to be rebuilt in the next movie… I went to a comic book panel a few years ago, and the artist talked about how superhero movies fail to have consequences that exist from one movie to the next, and that’s why they wear out their welcome for some viewers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I love superhero films, the cheesier the better. All the corny things I hate in books, or even other genres of film, I love in superhero films. I reliably cry at the endings no matter how predictable. I can’t account for it! Though I must say that one of the things I love about the Marvel universe is that those films do have consequences – there’s a theme running through multiple films about whether it’s appropriate to regulate superheroes given the damage they can cause, for example. (My vote as a member of a regulated profession is of course yes, but the screenwriters disagreed with me. No matter, it was still an interesting approach to the subject!)

        Like

        • I’m not sure if they’ considered superheroes, but I do enjoy the X-Men, so I’m not totally immune. Those movies are apt to make me cry because it’s almost like watching a film about disabilities and people just trying to be accepted.

          Like

  4. Hmmm, fantasy movies I’ve enjoyed… well of course the Harry Potter films! My son and I have started watching them together. I’m crazy for Marvel movies and shows but it’s funny, I don’t think of them as fantasy! Obviously they are. I think I have a mental block about fantasy as a genre … which really is just the high fantasy stuff. I like magical realism and weird fiction and some paranormal. Anyway, you’re so close to being done with this reading project! Such an accomplishment.

    Like

Insert 2 Cents Here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s