Changes by Mercedes Lackey

Changes: Volume Three of the Collegium Chronicles (A Valdemar Novel)
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I’ve been reading the Valdemar novels for a long time.  A friend gave me Arrows of the Queen when I was in college, and I’ve followed the author ever since.  Lately, though, I’ve noticed that the newer books haven’t appealed to me as much, and they haven’t seemed written to the same standard as the earlier ones.  And the latest offering, Changes, is drastically lacking in quality.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“In Mercedes Lackey’s classic coming-of-age story, the orphan Magpie pursues his quest for his parent’s identity with burning urgency—while also discovering another hidden talent and being trained by the King’s Own Herald as an undercover agent for Valdemar. Shy Bardic Trainee Lena has to face her famous but uncaring father, one of Valdemar’s most renowned Bards. And Healing Trainee Bear must struggle against his disapproving parents, who are pressuring Bear to quit the Healers’ Collegium because he lacks the magical Healing Gift.

Each of the three friends must face his or her demons and find their true strength as they seek to become the full Heralds, Bards, and Healers of Valdemar.”

Let me preface this review by saying that I’ve met Misty and Larry.  They’re nice people.  They have shown the ability to craft a story that entertains and engages the reader.  That’s why it sucks to have to point out that this book really isn’t all that great.

First of all, I have to warn readers that this novel provides absolutely no resolution to what is, presumably, a trilogy.  The previous books have posed several questions, such as Mags’ real identity, who his parents were, and the reason behind the attacks in the Collegium.  All of these are left hanging, without even a hint as to the answers.  You literally get to the last five pages or so and suddenly have this huge letdown.  I found it to be incredibly frustrating.

Mags’ accent seems to have gotten thicker in this novel.  At times it’s actually work to try to muddle through what he’s saying.  And the author appears to be enamored of his speech pattern, because she repeats aspects of it constantly.  The one that jumped out at me, and the one that I think wasn’t used as much in the previous novels, is Mags’ habit of saying “Aight” instead of “All right”.  Lackey interjects that expression multiple times per page, so that it’s hard to miss the repetition.

As far as plot goes, I’m torn.  On the one hand, I mostly enjoyed this novel, moreso than I have with the previous two books.  Not much really happened, but it was a chance to return to Valdemar, which is something that I enjoy.  However, this trilogy was originally billed as being about the time when the Herald Collegium was transitioning from a mentor-student training program to one that utilizes classrooms for most subjects.  If that was supposed to be the main focus, then the series has failed woefully.  Apart from a few mentions and dark intimations, the subject never comes up.

On a related note, because of the lack of closure, I’m not even sure what the threat to Valdemar was really supposed to be.  The main characters make some noises about figuring out that it must deal with destabilizing Valdemar, but there’s no confirmation of that.  All the other dangling plot hooks that seem to relate to it—such as who the heck Mags really is—may or may not really have made a difference.  The entire trilogy really went nowhere in this regard.

On top of all of this, the novel was very poorly edited.  I counted at least eight or nine spelling and grammatical errors.  Yes, mistakes happen, but these were mistakes that a simple spellcheck would have easily caught.  It was another niggling issue compounding the novel’s problems.

I really have to wonder if Lackey is simply getting involved in too many projects.  At my count, this year’s tally contains five novels and one anthology.  Previous years have been even worse.  I don’t know how anybody can concentrate on that many things and maintain a level of quality in any of them.

I won’t stop reading Lackey’s Valdemar books.  I do still have some faith that she can bring the series back to the level of quality that I’m used to.  But I will also admit that I got these books from the library and have no plans to get copies of my own.  The Collegium Chronicles is a forgettable entry in the Valdemar mythos, and Changes only highlights the trilogy’s shortcomings.

Also by this author: Brightly Burning, Changing the World, Conspiracies (with Rosemary Edghill), Crossroads, Elemental Magic, Exile’s Honor, Exile’s Valor, Finding the Way, The Firebird, The Gates of Sleep, Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, Home from the Sea, Intrigues, Joust, Legacies (with Rosemary Edghill), Phoenix and Ashes, Redoubt, Sacrifices (with Rosemary Edgehill), The Serpent’s Shadow, Steadfast, Take a Thief, Under the Vale, Unnatural Issue

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on November 3, 2011.

Series: The Collegium Chronicles
ISBN: 9780756406929
Publisher: DAW
Page Count: 336
Publication Date: October 4, 2011
Acquired: Borrowed from the Yolo County Public Library, Davis Branch
Author Website
Read an excerpt

3 comments

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  • Roberta P. Broussard

    I have to agree with the let down at the end. I don’t like Mags’s accent either. It distracts from the book. I really didn’t like book one of the series very much, but I liked book 2 a great deal, and the 3rd slightly less. I bought both on e-books though. Honestly, I’m enjoying her short story collections about Valdemar than the latest novels, and she’s my favorite author. I don’t know if this new series was billed as a trilogy or not, but it seems to me that it will probably have two more books. And yes, I want to know where the heck Mags is from, and what sort of threat that poses to Valdemar.

  • I have to agree with the gradual degradation in quality in the Valdemar books, I wonder sometimes if she’s gotten bored with the world. I haven’t read these most recent offerings, but it is disappointing to hear that they’re not that good.