Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King’s Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds’ Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.
Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags’ mentor, King’s Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King’s Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?”
In the past, I’ve called out the jacket text on a book for giving away too much of the plot. I’ve had books… well, not ruined, per se, but made less enjoyable when I got too much info in advance. With this book, I’m going to call out whoever wrote this flavor text for being completely misleading as to what this book is about. A plot to destroy the Heralds? Where was that in this book? True, Nikolas was the focus of an assassination attempt, but that’s about all the peril to Heralds that we see.
Mostly what this book consists of is more of Mags, the magical orphan. And this time around, Mags doesn’t even go through the minimal (sometimes self-made) struggles that he’s gone through in past books. His antics aren’t the main focus of the book, either. That honor goes to two feuding families that both come to Haven for the holidays and, predictably, get up to shenanigans. Can the Heralds save the day and stop these families from killing each other off? I didn’t really care. It had nothing to do with the broader scope of events in Valdemar–something that I think has been sorely missing in recent books.
And that feud? Well, let’s just say this. Think of the most famous literary family feud ever *coughShakespearecough* and you’ll understand exactly what you’re in for. This bit of silliness picks up in the second half of the book, with no prior foreshadowing. It’s just, suddenly, romantic tragedy in the making. It reminds me of the short story that Lackey wrote for an anthology which was a thinly veiled parody of Scooby Doo. I shook my head at that, and I’m shaking my head at this.
Oddly enough, I still enjoy Valdemar books. They’re kind of like comfort food. I’ve been reading the series for so long that the familiar elements can be nice to experience, quite apart from the plot or characters. But still, I will state plainly that this is not the Valdemar that I came to know and love in the era of the Winds and Storm trilogies.
This isn’t a great Valdemar book–it’s not even really a good fantasy novel–but if you’ve been reading this series for as long as I have, you may get some enjoyment out of it. I just hope that, one day, Lackey returns to the world-shaking tales that made me fall in love with this mythical land in the first place.