Author: Mercedes Lackey
Published By: DAW Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
As you may have read in the archive pages of G-POP.net, I was first turned on to Mercedes Lackey by a friend who sent me The Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy as a get well gift some years back. I fell in love with the land of Valdemar and the many Heralds and Companions who protect the kingdom. For those who have no idea what Heralds and Companions are, I’ll give you a very short summary. Heralds begin as ordinary people who have special gifts…powers, if you will…that usually don’t manifest themselves until around puberty. Gifts can include foresight, farsight, mindspeak, and more. Companions look like horses, but are actually magical beings. One can’t become a Herald until he or she is chosen by a Companion and the bond between Companion and Herald is believed to be unbreakable. Nothing devastates a Herald more than the loss of his Companion and the same holds true for a Companion losing his Herald.
I am a tremendous fan of the Valdemar series and, since receiving that original trilogy, have amassed quite a collection of Valdemar based books (Mercedes Lackey has a few other fantasy series, but I have yet to read any of those novels). In most of these novels, much is said about the legend of Lavan Firestorm, a Herald who made the ultimate sacrifice to save the kingdom he served and called home. However, this was all simply legend related to readers through those who had studied the history of the Heralds. I really knew nothing about the entire history of Lavan Firestorm until I read Brightly Burning.
Lavan Firestorm began life as Lavan Chitward, the second son of an upward moving textile skilled family. The Chitward family soon became leaders in their Guilds and decided a move was in order. Thus, Lavan was forced to leave his happy life in a rural village and move to the city of Haven. Unsure of himself in this new setting and lacking his family’s skills in the textile industry, Lavan felt lost and unable to blend in. In an effort to find something useful for their son, the Chitwards sent Lavan to a merchants' school, hopeful that Lavan would discover his calling there. Unfortunately, the bullying he was forced to contend with at this school inadvertently brings Lavan’s true gift to light…Lavan can start fires without any incendiary materials, massive fires that consume anything within reach. Unfortunately, Lavan has no way to control his “fire power” and tragic events take place before he is Chosen by a Companion.
Although worried about Lavan’s power, the likes of which had never before been seen in Valdemar, the Heralds accept Lavan with open arms. However, as most Heralds know, new Heralds with special powers like Lavan are only Chosen in times of need. What could be so pressing that a Herald with the power to create massive fires could be needed by Valdemar at this time? And can the Heralds and Companions find a way to teach Lavan how to control this power before it is truly needed?
I truly enjoyed learning the story behind the oft discussed legend of Lavan Firestorm. Mercedes Lackey always finds a way to insert today’s topics into her fantasy kingdom. She has never shied away from difficult topics. This novel deals with the painful realities of bullying, a topic that is very much in the news today. It deals with the pain felt by the people suffering the bullying, the ways victims go about avoiding it, the often ignored cries for help and the possible and often tragic results that occur when bullying becomes too much for the victim. But Brightly Burning doesn’t simply deal with the negative effects of bullying. This book also shows that one can survive bullying, overcome its negative effects and become someone greatly respected and admired. Being bullied doesn’t mean that you are deserving of said bullying and once you realize this, you can rise to bigger and better things.
As an adult, I enjoyed Brightly Burning as an interesting addition to my Valdemarian collection, but I think that many teenagers could benefit from reading this tale as well. We’ve all known the effects of bullying, either as a witness to the act or as a victim. Some people never completely move on from it, feeling the effects long into their adult lives, sometimes even becoming victims as adults. This novel deals with the realities of bullying, making the topic something less droll by placing the bullies and their victims in a fantasy world. The story of Lavan Firestorm is a legend in Valdemarian history because of all the accomplishments he made once he learned how to accept who he was and stop seeing himself through the eyes of his tormentors. I would say this is definitely recommended reading for all teenage fantasy buffs and any Mercedes Lackey fan.
For more Mercedes Lackey novels, check out: