Monday, January 14, 2013

All the Pretty White Horses...

Valdemar. Many of you know exactly what I'm talking about with just the name, but for those who don't, The Kingdom of Valdemar is the setting of most of Mercedes Lackey's long running Heralds of Valdemar series. Quite a few of them actually. And covering many many epochs of time within said kingdom.

The woman is nothing if not prolific.

Redoubt is the latest, set a few centuries before the bulk of the novels in the setting. (There are two trilogies set earlier on the time line that these, The Collegium Chronicles.) Which is up to 4 books, probably the longest she's written around the same main character. I also thought this one was supposed to be the last in the series and in the setting, but I certainly hope not, particularly give exactly how many loose ends are flying in the wind at the end.

The Chronicles series follows mainly Mags, an orphan boy who starts this particular series as a virtual slave in a mine. (It's one Carol Burnett short of being Annie.) Mags ends up getting Chosen by Companion Dallen, and whisked away to Haven, the capital of Valdemar. (Companions are basically big spirits creatures that are often mistaken for horses.) Through the course of this, we've seen Mags go through training as a Herald (Heralds being folks who perform duties on behalf of the crown with their Companion. It should also be noted that any sitting Queen or King is also required to have been chosen.), make friends with a Healer, a Bard, and a civilian, create a new game, and solve familial problems.

Problem is, until this volume, Mags has known very little to nothing of his family. We do know some folks causing issues for the crown seem to recognize him, and we know they got hired by Karse to the south. (Karse has been a long standing enemy to Valdemar. Although this changes in the Mage Storms trilogy, this series is set before that one. ARGH! Chronological continuity in no way reflects the order the books were written. Thankfully, most of em have a handy timeline in the front so you have some idea when the hell you are.)

As such, by the end of this one, we have a better idea of who Mags parents are, a pithy sermon on what actually happened to Karse, and a nebulous antagonist waiting for a new volume.

Redoubt remains well written, and thankfully, Megs' dialogue is no longer quite as colloquial and dialect-y as it was in earlier volumes. (I hate reading books where I have to read the lines out loud to get some idea of what the hell someone is saying.) I'm hoping sdhe does have another book coming, since the nebulous antagonist has not been mentioned in any of the other books or anthologies to my knowledge. (She's usually really good about keeping continuity straight.)

I would also add that if you haven't read any of the Valdemar books, they are good old fashioned sword and sorcery fantasy. And many contemporary Urban Fantasy authors owe Mercedes a debt for paving the way for strong female leads in fantasy novels. Also, the second trilogy, The Last Herald Mage, introduced a true rarity, a gay male main character, Vanyel. Vanyel also got not one, but TWO lifemates. And a circle of gay friends. And in later novels, one of his descendents is something of a gay pimp.

Her other series are also interesting, if usually co-written. I will admit to not being enamored of her Elemental Masters series, but the SERRAted Edge novels and the Bedlam's Bard series are fun. Diane Tregarde is also fun, even if it did start some real life drama. (Google that one. People evidently thought it was real.) Really, just hit the library/bookstore.whatever and look for her stuff. You can't really go wrong.