This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“In March 1987, Mercedes Lackey, a young author from Oklahoma, published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. No one could have envisioned that this modest book about a magical land called Valdemar would be the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles.
Now the voices of other authors add their own special touches to the ancient land where Heralds “Chosen” from all walks of life by magical horse-like Companions patrol their ancient kingdom, dispensing justice, facing adversaries, and protecting their monarch and country from whatever threatens. Trained rigorously by the Herald’s Collegium, these special protectors each have extraordinary Gifts: Mindspeaking, FarSeeing, FarSpeaking, Empathy, Firestarting and ForeSeeing, and are bonded for life with their mysterious Companions. Travel with these astounding adventurers in sixteen original stories.”
It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since the last Valdemar anthology came out. On one hand, it’s been long enough that the storylines that ran through several of the tales have either petered out or have been out of the reader’s mind long enough that they might as well be new. On the other hand, it is nice to come to the Valdemar stories with that feeling of fresh new material. With Lackey’s own Valdemar novels not measuring up to her earlier ones, I liked returning to this world with that feeling of newness.
Most of the tales don’t feature Heralds as the main character. The vast majority deal with people who may associate with Heralds, but their talents lie in other directions. For example, there are characters with Animal Mindspeech, healing knowledge, and the simple courage that allows people to take control of their lives at times when it seems most difficult. The acts of heroism are the small acts that loom large in consequence: helping those in need, not judging something that you don’t understand, doing what’s right even if it inconveniences you.
The stories also run the gamut of the kinds of people you would meet in Valdemar and the countries around it. There are tales of Holders and their workers, Hawkbrothers, Bards, Healers, and simple craftspeople. As a special treat, there are two stories that feature well-known characters from the Valdemar novels: one story has Solaris, the Karsite Son of the Sun, as a character long before her ascension, and Lackey’s own story is about Vanyel, the last Herald-Mage from the last great age of Valdemar’s magic.
I found that I enjoyed these small slices of Valdemaran life more than I did the last several novels by Lackey. The characters are diverse, the situations are varied, and locations are far-flung. If you cut your teeth on Valdemar like I did, you definitely want to pick up this volume.