Valdemar is one of the more enduring fantasy worlds still being actively explored by its original author. With this, the 24th novel in the series, Mercedes Lackey continues the trend begun in Brightly Burning, delving into the backgrounds of her most intriguing characters. In Take A Thief, the early life of Skif, the thief turned Herald, takes center stage.
Skif’s beginnings are humble indeed; a drudge in his uncle’s tavern, Skif barely has enough to eat or sufficient clothing. His thieving skills are born from necessity, as he steals food from noble households to augment his meager portions at home. Eventually he falls in with another young thief and, in an Oliver Twist scenario, Skif learns thieving from an older mentor. He is taken under the wing of Bazie, a veteran of the Tedrel Wars, whose missing legs deny him the chance for a normal life.
When tragedy strikes and tears Skif’s world apart, he becomes fueled by vengence. His stealing pays informants and finances his need to kill the one who destroyed all that he loved. But fate takes an odd turn when Skif decides to steal a stray white horse … and finds that he’s the one being stolen away. He’s targeted none other than a Companion, who has come to take him away to become a Herald in Valdemar’s service.
This novel has a head start with Valdemar fans from the outset, since it’s about one of the series’ most beloved characters. The story is a pretty straightforward rags-to-riches tale, but with a hard edge. The lives of those not of the nobility are sometimes cruel, and Lackey portrays these people authentically.
Fans will also appreciate the inclusion of some characters from previous novels, who have ties to Skif. Notably, our hero’s antagonism to Lord Orthallen, a member of the royal council, is explored; and his tutelage by the enigmatic weapons master, Alberich, is fleshed out. For those familiar with the series, these touches add depth; for those not familiar with Valdemar, these are the characters the reader will want to know more about.
It’s nice to read a book that gives something new and yet displays such a comforting sense of familiarity. Take A Thief is a fast-paced read that adds to an already well-rounded world.