I finished Magic's Promise by Mercedes Lackey last night before bed. While this is not my first time reading it, this is probably the first time I've really enjoyed it most. Which likely has to do with having experienced more of life than previous readings.
We pick up roughly 12 years after the events of the first book, with Vanyel returning from the Karsite border, where Karsite priests have been turning demons loose on the Valdemarian defenders. Elspeth, Queen during the first book, has died, making Randale the current monarch. Vanyel, due to his power, has been covering the work of 5 Heralds, but is due for his Familial visit, which looks to be several months dealing with his parents at Forst Reach. Sayvil agrees to follow behind him a few weeks later, and his sister Liss has her commission not far from the holding.
Vanyel has been pretty much celibate over the past few years, dating one person until work matters broke them apart. Which doesn't prevent Vanyel's father (and indeed, much of the residents) from assuming Vanyel is after every young boy on the holding. In the mean time, a possible border skirmish on the border near Forst Reach between the Kingdoms of Lineas and Baires is heating up.
Not that it matters, the first big debates upon his arrival involve sheep in the meadows and an ill tempered stallion.
Any rate, one of Vanyel's mother's maids keeps trying to seduce Vanyel, which leads to him sleeping in the stable frequently. Which works out, since it means he's available to hear the distress call coming from the Linean capital of Highjourune, which in turn means rescuing the newly chosen Herald Tashir, who also happens to be the disinherited son of the now dead ruling family. And everyone thinks Tashir did it with mage powers, which are largely frowned upon in Lineas.
Vanyel gates himself and Tashir back to Forst Reach, and Vanyel later goes back across the border posing as a minstrel to gather information.
On the bright side, his diversions do help repair his relationship with Armsmaster Jervis, who ends up becoming his ally. On the downside, the ruling family of Baires has been injecting their own representative into Lineaen politics, in an attepmpt to take the throne and get access to the large heartstone under the capital.
It eventually all works out, and Vanyel pulls off and ending for everyone straight out of a Nolan Batman movie.
As to why I didn't like this book as much as the rest of the trilogy (and still kind of don't) has to do with Vanyel's emotional issues throughout the entire novel. Among other things, Vanyel's fathered 3 children for various reasons, and spends much of his inner monologing trying to figure out if he can reconcile this with being shaych (the Valdemarian term for homosexual). He also spends a bunch of time missing Tylendel and moping about it. Really, it's very very Emo. While this turned me off a much younger reader, I can see now it's actually a fairly accurate representation of the grieving process.
On to book 3.