Mercedes Lackey recently announced that she’s taking an indefinite hiatus from writing Valdemar novels. Although it’s a sad development, she has given readers one last rousing story about fan favorite Herald Alberich. Exile’s Valor continues the enigmatic armsmaster’s tale.
Queen Selenay still grieves over the death of her father, all the while facing pressure to get married quickly and produce an heir. But the councilors have forgotten that she’s still a young woman who longs for romance and excitement.
When the Prince Karath of the neighboring nation, Rethwellan, arrives in Valdemar, Selenay sees an opportunity to fulfill her dreams.
Meanwhile, Alberich is hot on the trail of what seems to be a simple case of information trade, although he doesn’t know what the information is. The deeper he probes, the more it becomes clear that the queen’s safety could be compromised. And, as hard as Alberich finds it to believe, the prince may be the key to a plot to overthrow Valdemar’s throne.
In recent years, Lackey’s strong characters have become even stronger. She has mastered the art of showing peoples’ complete selves, flaws and all, and making them likable. It’s harder to accomplish, but the author has consistently done so, especially in her last few novels. The author’s choice of characters — a young and impulsive woman, an older and suspicious warrior — gives her many opportunities to explore why people act as they do.
Rather than dealing with soldiers and large battles, as with last year’s Exile’s Honor, this story focuses on a less epic event. By pulling the focus in closer, Lackey provides a wealth of background to the original Valdemar series’ events. She also allows readers to see the everyday acts of heroism that go unnoticed amid more dramatic happenings.
I’ll miss having new Valdemar tales to anticipate, but hopefully the hiatus will give Lackey fresh ideas. For now, Exile’s Valor is a deft and engaging novel.