Reread: The Last Herald Mage trilogy and Oathbreakers

Reading Blue Rose made me crave my favorite romantic fantasy series, The Last Herald Mage. The Last Herald Mage was my introduction to Lackey and Valdemar, sparking introspection in my early 20s, and remaining a touchstone ever after.

I’ve reread the Last Herald Mage so often that I remember all of the broad strokes–but the fine details are always sharp and surprising when I encounter them again.

Tarma and Kethry are great, though the first book’s fits and starts were pretty obvious on this read through. I’ll pop into the Arrows trilogy and see how Talia’s doing next.

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

An interesting book with a very strong, positive, interesting protagonist: Joyeaux Charmand. She’s a Hunter–someone with magical powers in a post-almost the Apocalypse, the Diseray.

Some of the interesting threads that felt reminiscent of other books were the high peaks setting for the Monestary and home. Much like a few recent books about a plague (disease or zombie) restricting people to mountaintops, with the lands below being wasteland, the flatlands are a shattered world. In fact, the backstory of the Diseray feels a lot like the RIFTS backstory–a bunch of bad decisions collided and brought back magic in a wrenching disaster. The disaster was near total–society collapsed and creatures from myth ate just about everything–except for a few enclaves, particularly where the snow remains year round–or where the remaining scraps of humanity rallied behind the Psimonds and early Hunters.

Joyeaux is a teenage girl who is a Hunter, trained in a (to the Capital, Apex) remote and hidden fortress. Very quickly, she’s summoned from the mountain to her Uncle in Apex. There are interesting fish-out-of-water elements (a bit like Katniss going to the Capitol).

What made the book stand apart was the strong internal consistency to Joy’s decision making and experiences. You don’t get flashes of her doing things because it’d be convenient to the plot. The world building also hangs together plausibly–there are a lot of asides about decisions that were quickly made that reflect well on the people who made them.

The magic system hangs together, though it does take the back seat to the Hunter’s Hounds. The hounds are the core of the magic–in fact, we really don’t hear about non-Hunters using magic, and Hunters are defined by their hounds. Hmm… that’ll be something to look forward to; are there magicians who don’t have hounds?

The story is familiar; outsider with strange gifts comes to town, trains alongside her peers, fights outsiders and wins allies and enemies for doing so. There’s an interesting overlay of reality TV; in Apex, each Hunter is filmed and has a personal channel, has to keep their ratings up, etc. It adds an interesting twist, as our poor turnip has to adjust to a thriving city and Hunters by the dozen, navigating a reality star’s life in the camera, plus skullduggery. She does well and we root for her the whole way.

(It looks like Elite: A Hunter novel is the sequel; Amazon has it coming out in September.)

Valedemar: Winds and Storm Trilogies

Another solid six books in the series and a good conclusion to the world.

The Wind Trilogy is Elspeth’s and is about her long journey, training, and return. She’s a more complex character and not completely sympathetic, which is good. She’s given a number of gifts and talents, which seem to exceed the demand that’s put on them by a pretty wide margin much of the time. The book also introduces Darkwind who has a lot of POV chapters and his own struggles for the first two books before falling in beside Elspeth for the conclusion.

The Winds trilogy returns to a tighter set of POVs; typically Karal (the Karsite scholar). As the series goes on other POVs become more common, but the story is still Karal’s. Karal gets a lot less cool powers and status– most of the time, his efforts are like a Buffy scooby– inspiring, but not the person slinging the power or beating the bad guys by himself. The second book’s conclusion is a little disappointing, mostly because the third book’s conclusion is so similar. If you’re annoyed by “reunion books” where everyone in every other book makes an appearance, you might be annoyed– but it’s handled quite well and doesn’t dominate everything.

Valedemar: Arrows Trilogy

I recently reread Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows Trilogy: Arrows of the Queen, Arrow’s Flight, and Arrow’s Fall. Evidently was the first trilogy written in the series, despite my reading the Magic’s Promise/Pride/Price trilogy previously.

I enjoyed the series. Some small elements felt repetitious– but given that this was the first series written I guess it’s the other books that repeat the elements introduced here.

Talia is inspiring and refreshing– from the very beginning, she seems like someone whose struggles are worthwhile. The petty humiliations and struggle to adapt to strange environments in the first book are very well written– I sympathized with Talia and hoped she’d find a way to endure.

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Recent Books: Tarma, Kethry, and Kerowyn

I had a craving for some Lackey novels this weekend– specifically Tarma and Kethry. So I read Oathbound and Oathbreakers, which I enjoyed, but noticed some problems with them this time around. Afterward I read Oathblood, and kicked myself– the missing kickoff story is in there. (Oathblood is a collection of Tarma and Kethry short stories). If you’re interested in reading the series, here’s how I suggest you tackle it:
Oathblood: Sword-sworn
remaining short stories from Oathblood. [Note: Some of these are in Oathblood and Oathbound in very similar form.]

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