Author: Mercedes Lackey
Published By: DAW Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some time ago, a friend introduced me to the writings of Mercedes Lackey by sending me the The Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy. The fantasy novels centered around one individual chosen to protect the Queen of Valdemar by a Companion. These Companions look like horses, but would be highly insulted if you called them such. They have heightened intelligence, superior speed and agility, and the ability to telepathically communicate with their Chosen and with other Companions. The Chosen individual usually possesses some sort of power of their own – Mind Speak, Fore Sight, Touch Sight, etc. I had never read anything by Mercedes Lackey before, but as soon as I opened the first novel, I was hooked. Mercedes Lackey’s writing style was addictive and I simply could not put the novel down until I had come to the last page. Once finished, I found myself yearning to learn more about the Heralds of Valdemar.
Since then, although Mercedes Lackey has written numerous fantasy novels in various settings, I have focused on her Valdemar series. I find the Companions and their Chosen to be fascinating and can’t read enough about them. I was especially taken by the Weaponsmaster, Alberich, a Herald with speech that rivaled Star Wars’ Jedi Master Yoda. I was thrilled to discover that Mercedes Lackey had written a two-part novel series focusing on Alberich’s rise to Herald status and his further adventures in Valdemar. I hurriedly purchased both novels and began reading the history of Alberich.
In Exile’s Honor, we learn that Alberich was once a soldier in the Karsite army, an enemy to Valdemar. The Heralds of Valdemar were considered sorcerers to the Karsites and thus, heathens. When Alberich first began exhibiting visible signs of having the power to see into the future, the Sunlord Priests, a vicious and corrupt bunch, ordered that Alberich be destroyed by fire. Just as this is about to occur, Alberich is rescued by the Companion Kantor, a mighty steed with amazing powers that Alberich has yet to discover. Alberich’s arrival in Valdemar causes some concern among the Valdemarians. Never before has a Companion brought back a Chosen from an enemy state. Believing this could only mean trouble, many persecuted Alberich unfairly. It wasn’t until the Tedrel Wars that Alberich finally was able to prove his worth to the Valdemarians, securing the trust he so greatly deserved among his peers.
In the second novel of the duology, Exile’s Valor, we come upon Alberich shortly after the Tedrel Wars. It is taking some time for Valdemarians to adjust to the results of the war. Having lost so many courageous soldiers and Heralds, the country was dealt an even harsher blow when their King was lost on the battlefield. His teenage daughter, Selenay, a Herald in her own right, ascends to the throne, and many are uncertain as to what sort of Queen she will make. Alberich is certain of her ability to lead, but there are those who wish to undermine her authority. Thus, Alberich goes undercover in some of the seedier neighborhoods of Valdemar to discover who the culprit may be and what they might have in mind. With the help of Herald Myste, he is able to uncover some strange goings on between the members of the court and an actor/acrobat named Norris. However, he is unable to pinpoint exactly what is going on and is thus sorely unprepared for the events that follow…events that could put Selenay in danger and the kingdom of Valdemar in jeopardy.
In Exile’s Honor, we saw an Alberich who was uncertain about his destiny and unfamiliar with the ways of Valdemar. Alberich’s faith in himself and his abilities grew in that novel and in Exile’s Valor, we meet an Alberich who has now accepted his role as protector of the crown and Weaponsmaster at the Collegium. We meet an Alberich that has grown more certain of himself and more trusting of those around him. My first impression of Alberich after reading The Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy was that he was a harsh taskmaster with a heart of gold hiding under all that leather. After reading the Exile’s Duology, I find that I was correct in that assessment. The duology gives us insight in all that molded Alberich into the man he is by the time we meet him in The Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy.
I love the fact that Mercedes Lackey has created back stories for so many of the key heralds from The Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy. Learning more about Valdemar has become somewhat of a project for me and I am having fun conducting my research. Lackey’s novels present adult situations in a fantasy setting. The characters deal with prejudices against race and sexuality, ignorance toward the unknown and situations under which the bravest of hearts might falter. Some of these situations are things that we, as adults, face on a daily basis. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Companion we could always consult at these times – someone we could talk to without ever uttering a single word? Wouldn’t it be nice to have the power of Far Sight or Mind Speak, some extra edge to help carry us through our lives?
My only complaint – reading as many books as I have, you’re bound to come across a few typos. One or two are no big deal and I usually just ignore them, but Exile’s Valor had quite a few typos and each time I found one, I got more annoyed. As someone who has to proofread reports daily, I found it exceedingly annoying to discover that the proofreaders at a large publishing company such as DAW Books would allow all of those typos to get through.
Be that as it may, I still was able to enjoy Exile’s Valor immensely. Mercedes Lackey’s novels allow us to live vicariously through her world of fantasy and magic. After reading Exile’s Valor, I’m more mesmerized by the kingdom of Valdemar than ever. I can’t wait to read the next Novel of Valdemar on my shelf!