Author: Mercedes Lackey
Published By: DAW Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I haven’t read a book based in my favorite fantasy land of Valdemar in a while, so I decided to read the first book in a series I’ve been meaning to check out for some time. Thus, it was off to 850-something AF (After the Founding of Valdemar) to observe the new era of the Herald’s Collegium in Foundation, Book One of The Collegium Chronicles.
We begin Foundation with the introduction of Mags, a young boy forced into torturous labor at a gem mine. He has been told nothing about his family except that he is born of “bad blood.” Living in squalor and wondering if each day down in the mine might be his last, Mags is nonetheless successful at this work, finding gems seems to be his specialty. Knowing when to get out of harm’s way has also served him well as the mines have collapsed more than once, trapping many a young soul inside.
One day, a Herald of Valdemar comes to Mags’ rescue. It seems he has been chosen to become a Herald by Companion Dallen (a being that looks like a horse, but is a thousand times more with mystical powers). With the aid of Dallen, Mags soon learns that he has special powers himself. He can Mindspeak – talking to others with only the use of his mind and hearing what others are thinking.
Dallen helps Mags control his powers and cultivate them while Herald Jakyr escorts him to the newly founded Herald’s Collegium. It is here that he learns all his is capable of and more. While at the mine, all he knew was work, but at the Collegium, he is expected to use his time learning. Mags is overwhelmed by the generosity of Heralds, Bards and Healers alike here and he discovers what kindness can really be like. Mags helps to bring down the owner of the mine he worked in and, in doing so, rescues the other children forced to work there. Once he settles into life at the Collegium, he is surprised to discover that he excels in things other than Mindspeech – he rides well and has a knack for weaponry. He even finds a way to forego his shyness and make friends.
But not all is well at the Collegium. Some of the Heralds are not happy with this new way of teaching. For years, Herald Trainees rode along with a seasoned Herald and learned one-on-one with them. Now, there are simply too many Trainees arriving from all parts of Haven and outlying areas to teach in this manner. The fact that so many Herald Trainees are getting chosen is unsettling as well, for it foretells of hard times to come, even the possibility of war. Couple that with the mysterious mercenaries that have arrived at the Palace and the dark feeling that Mags has been getting here and there and one realizes that Haven may just be under attack by unknown forces.
But what can a young Herald Trainee do against such a danger? Mags is about to find out.
Quite honestly, the last series of novels I read that took place in Valdemar (the Vows and Honor series) soured me a little on things. They were slow, contained way too many typos and just really didn’t grab me like previous Valdemar tales did. But Foundation 100% revived my interest in Valdemar. Mags is an incredibly likeable protagonist, whose kindness and strength of character we see early on, before he is even Chosen. I had always been interested in how the Herald’s Collegium began and Foundation quenched that thirst, explaining the reason behind its birth and the various aspects of the original training that went on there. Building is still taking place when Mags gets there and tensions are high among Heralds who are against this style of training, making things much more intriguing for the reader.
Though I think, at times, Mags awe and wonder with how he is being treated and the acts of kindness dealt with nothing expected in return are often repetitive, I can deal with that compared to millions of typos. In fact, I can honestly say that Foundation was edited very well. If there were mistakes, they barely registered because I was so engrossed in the story. I wanted to know if Mags would succeed. I wanted to know who Mags parents were and how he ended up at the mine. I wanted to know what the underlying danger Mags kept feeling was about.
Once I got to the end of Foundation, I wanted more! Good thing that The Collegium Chronicles are five books long. I can’t wait to read the next in the series!