Exile’s Honor by Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar has a history as varied as the people who live there. Even so, she has held back information, teasing readers with hints of great events and battles in the country’s past. In her newest book, she reveals the story of the Tedrel Wars and tells the tale of Valdemar’s most enigmatic Herald, Weaponsmaster Alberich.
Karsite Sun Lord worship forbids the use of magic, calling such powers demonic. Alberich, a Karsite army captain, finds that he no longer can hide his ability to see into the future. Although his powers save a village from bandit attack, he’s sentenced to death by burning. But he’s saved in turn by his recently-acquired white horse, who turns out to be a Valdemaran Companion named Kantor.
Now Alberich is living with his enemies, owing them his life, cast out by his own people. But to whom does he now owe his loyalty?
Alberich struggles to absorb Herald’s training and Valdemaran language, even as he tries to fit in with people who only see him as the enemy they’ve fought for so long. But soon Valdemar will need him, for Karse has hired an army of deadly mercenaries and is intent on Valdemar’s destruction. Alberich’s skills and knowledge could turn the tide in his adopted country’s favor … but should he betray his homeland?
Lackey’s skill at characterization has never been more evident than in this book. Alberich is a man torn between loyalties, questioning right and wrong at every turn. The author sometimes lets the readers into his thoughts, and sometimes shows how his frustrations play out in his daily life.
He’s no typical Herald. Scorning the traditional uniform and performing spy duties no other can accomplish, Alberich comes across as down-to-earth, harsh, and yet likeable.
The novel’s backdrop is the Tedrel Wars, often hinted at but unexplored until now. The author excels at the details of battle scenes, both in large-scale fights and individual struggles. The final confrontation hits even harder because Lackey uses almost the whole novel to build to that moment, where one climactic event changes the course of history.
Working as both a stand-out addition to the Valdemar universe and as a starting place for those new to the series, Exile’s Honor is a novel of both action and depth.