Under the Vale edited by Mercedes Lackey

Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar
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Although Mercedes Lackey has returned to writing in her Valdemar universe, the legacy of letting others “play in her sandbox” has continued.  Every year, right before Christmas, a new volume of short stories hits the shelves.  They are filled with Heralds, Bards, Healers, and the many strange and wondrous beings that inhabit Valdemar and its environs.  Under the Vale continues some running storylines and introduces some new tales.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“In March 1987, a young author from Oklahoma published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. This modest book about a magical land called Valdemar was the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles. Now readers can travel to the world of Valdemar with Tanya Huff, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Fiona Patton, Rosemary Edghill, Judith Tarr, and others in these original stories, including an all-new novella from Mercedes Lackey.”

Several tales are recent installments to storylines that have been part of previous volumes.  My favorite among these is the “Heart” stories, done by Sarah Hoyt and Kate Paulk.  Each new anthology contains two stories, one from each author, that follow the partners Jem and Ree as they make their lives in the Eastern Empire.  These tales are focused on family—making one out of the people that you love, no matter who that is.  I like the message in these stories quite a bit.

There are also ongoing stories by Fiona Patton that feature a family in which most of the men join the Haven City Watch, Brenda Cooper’s Bard and Healer pairing that travels around the country, and Elisabeth Waters’s character Lena who speak with animals.  Over the course I’ve time, I’ve come to know these characters just as I have the “official” characters of Valdemar, and I care about them just as much.

A couple of stories even deal with some of those “official” people.  One by Elizabeth Vaughn touches on the moment that Queen Selenay realized that she’d formed a lifebond with a Rethwellan prince.  Another by Michael Williamson and Gail Sanders has Kerowyn in the periphery of their story.  I find it nice to reconnect with characters that I’ve known for a long time, because Lackey’s earlier creations are so alive in my mind.

But the crown jewel of this book is Larry Dixon’s essay “Under the Vale”, which details how the Tayledras clans create the Vales that protect them as they cleanse the Pelagirs forest.  Until I read this, I didn’t know how much thought and effort went into the background of the various races and cultures of Velgarth, but the amount of information in this essay was fascinating.  Having met Larry once, I can well imagine the fun he had thinking of this up, and I would love to sit down and have a good, meaty discussion with him about what he wrote here.  I hope that this becomes a tradition in these volumes, because I loved this peek into the work that goes into this series.

I’ve come to look forward to these books as a Christmas treat, and the last few have not disappointed.  Under the Vale adds new depth and dimension to the classic Valdemar series and explores stories that other authors have dreamed up.  If you’re a fan of the series, make sure to treat yourself to these wonderful tales.

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, Redoubt, Sacrifices (with Rosemary Edghill), The Serpent’s Shadow, Steadfast, Take a Thief, Unnatural Issue

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on February 22, 2012.

Series: Valdemar
ISBN: 9780756406967
Publisher: DAW
Page Count: 352
Publication Date: December 6, 2011
Acquired: Provided by the publisher
Author Website