Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey
Redoubt: Book Four of the Collegium Chronicles (A Valdemar Novel)
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I’ve been reading the Valdemar novels since my college roommate shoved the first book at me and said “You have to read this because you’re Talia.” She was right—one of my husband’s friends even calls me “Talia” on occasion. I’ve kept up with the series ever since, but I have to admit that it’s not as well-written as it used to be. Redoubt is full of the little details that make Lackey’s Valdemar books enjoyable, but it suffers from a lack of plot.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Mags, a young Herald trainee in Haven, the capital city of the kingdom of Valdemar, has talents not commonly found in Herald trainees. Recognizing this, the King’s Own Herald decides to train Mags as a spy in order to uncover the secrets of a mysterious new enemy who has taken an interest in Mags himself. Why is the even deeper mystery. The answers can only be found in the most unexpected corners of Mags’ past…assuming he can live long enough to find them.”
I have to thank Misty for one very important thing: the atrocious dialect that Mags spoke with during the first three novels has been almost completely removed. Only vestiges of it remain, and it’s nowhere near as difficult to read as before. That did a lot towards making the novel more readable from a technical standpoint.
Unfortunately, this novel—and the series in general—still suffers from an extreme lack of direction. In fact, you can get the almost the entire plot for the novel from reading the dust jacket. The book’s first half is taken up with following the characters as they practice diplomacy and Herald-like skills, resolve personal conflicts, and of course play Kirball (the made-up sport that bears a strong resemblance to Quidditch). There’s no real plot movement until halfway through the story, when Mags gets kidnapped. By the end of the book, you still have no idea why he’s been kidnapped or what his heritage actually is, and so the episode accomplishes nothing.
This series was billed as being about the time during which Heralds went from a one-on-one mentoring system to the classroom and circuit-riding based system that is seen in “present-day” Valdemar. This is true, the series is indeed set during this time; however, the story has nothing to do with that transition. What I always liked about previous installments in the Valdemar story was that the plots always had some wider impact on the country as a whole. I just don’t see that in this book or this particular series.
There are a few nice moments that hearken back to vintage Valdemar. The best of these involves Bear, the healer who defied his family to follow his passion for herbalism. He gets some nice revenge on his father during a heated confrontation. A book can’t ride on the strength of a couple of interesting bits, though, and so these scenes don’t do much to save this novel.
It’s weird, but I kind of liked the first half of the novel, where readers hang around the Collegium and Palace in familiar situations, better than the supposed plot section. I’ve found that I just don’t care about the plot, because it’s too thin and unsupported to hold my attention. But I’ve also found that any excuse to revisit the Heralds can be the literary equivalent of “comfort food”. It may not satisfy, but it’s warm and familiar.
Fans of the Heralds may find something to like in this novel—I certainly found pieces that I enjoyed—but overall, this series is not living up the author’s reputation as an entertaining and skilled writer. Redoubt is another lackluster entry into a series that adds nothing to the Valdemar mythos.
Also by this author: Beauty and the Werewolf, Brightly Burning, Changes, 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, Sacrifices (with Rosemary Edghill), The Serpent’s Shadow, Steadfast, Take a Thief, Under the Vale, Unnatural Issue
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 22, 2013.