4 out of 5
A main theme throughout the Collegium Chronicles series has been Mags’ mysterious origins. Orphaned in a bandit camp raid he has never been sure just who his parents were and why they were in that camp. This, the fourth book in the series begins to answer these questions. A new group of assassins manages to subdue and kidnap Mags, taking him across the border in to Kardite territory. Confused, his mind speech blocked, Mags still manages to escape. In the process he befriends one of the Kardite red priests, Franse and his Sun Cat, Reaylis. With Reaylis’s help Mags regains his mind speech only to be recaptured. Through the assassins he learns of the country he came from and realizes he much prefers Valdemar.
Lackey gives the reader the opportunity to see just how much Mags has matured and moved past the horrors of his youth by separating him completely from Dallen and forcing him to survive once again on his own. This time though he has well developed skills that allow him to begin to take control of his own destiny. It also allows him to realize just how much he loves and cares for his new family in Valdemar. He is able to trust that they are doing everything to save him while also taking advantage of every means possible to escape. It is unusual for Lackey to continue one character’s story for this many books. While I am looking forward to the 5th book in the series I hope she is planning on bringing Mags’ story to a conclusion.
4 out of 5
Changes continues the story of Mags the Herald-Trainee and his best friends Lydia and Bear as they navigate the world of the Collegium. New assassins have been sent and Mags, spending his nights as a deaf and mute helper in the pawn shop set up by the King’s Own must ferret them out. Mags and the King’s Own daughter Amily are targeted by the assassins while Lydia and Bear are still working through family issues. All this while balancing becoming a Kirball star and his school work while the whole city teeters on madness they think is caused by a heat wave.
My only complaint about this book is the emphasis on Kirball. I tend to get tired of the detailed explanations of each game as they really don’t have a great deal to do with the plot. Otherwise it is an average addition to the series.
4 out of 5
Intrigues is the second novel in the Collegium Chronicles. Mag’s has saved his friend Bear and helped expose the spies that have infiltrated the Palace but the last words of a madman combined with the visions of the farseers have cast suspicion on the young Herald Trainee. Added to the family problems of both Lydia and Bear the stress starts to get to Mag. It seems impossible for Mag to defend himself against a crime that hasn’t even happened yet. Mag pours himself into his school work, Kirball and spending nights in Haven working with the King’s Own and hopes what that the farseer’s are misinterpreting their visions. Fortunately he is no longer completely alone and with the help of his friends and team he once again diverts a catastrophe.
This novel digs deeper into the family problems of Lydia and Bear and Mag’s own lack of family. Once again the the focus is on the characters with the storyline helping to move their problems along. Very enjoyable story that allows the reader to see just how much Mag has matured.
4 out of 5
Foundations is the first in Lackey’s The Collegium Chronicles part of her Valdemar series. Chronologically it falls about 50 years after the story in the Last Herald-Mage series and there are many references to Vanyel. This story concerns a very young Mag, a mine slave, chosen by the Companion Dallen. Mag’s upbringing causes him to lack even the most basic social skills or knowledge. Having been raised with only his literacy to bring to a level slightly above an animal, Dallen is forced to create special shields to protect him and basically force feeds him basic knowledge of the world and it’s people. Dallen also helps him find his two best friends Lydia and Bear keeping him from being a complete outcast. Yet Mag’s upbringing gives him special skills that make him valuable to the King’s Own and the King himself as a spy. These skills allow him to not only break up a spy ring but save his best friend in the process.
Like many of the Valdemar novels the story is told from only one point of view which allows the reader to see the world only through the main characters eyes. While helping develop the main character it does exclude some parts of the story. The fact that the building of the Collegium does not please all of the older Heralds is seen only through Mag’s experiences and I would have liked to have seen it expanded upon. As always the climax is secondary to the characters development and almost slips by. Lackey has created an interesting world and I enjoy watching it’s history being developed. She reminds me of Modesitt in this. This is an enjoyable addition to the Valdemar series for fans although those new to the Valdemar world might want to start with the Last Herald-Mage series.
3 out of 5
I received this book as a free e-book from a disk in Lackey’s book Invasion. It is the first in the Bardic Voices series. Wren is a young woman with musical talent born at the wrong time in the wrong place. Everyone in her small village knows she is a bastard and treats her as such. Her mother doesn’t want her except as cheap labor and the young men of the village are starting to realize she is growing up and fair game for rape. Since no one else will help her, Wren takes her future into her own hands and uses her music to escape. The novel follows her adventures as she makes her way in the world, trying to become good enough to become a Guild Bard. Wren is a strong female character who is easily mistaken for a boy. She uses this to her advantage. In her world the church and the guilds control most people’s lives and both have good and bad about them. The majority of characters are well rounded with no one being purely good or purely evil. My main problem with the book is the last part of the novel. The conclusion is rushed with more telling rather than showing. Other than that it is a fun read.
3 out of 5
This is the seventh novel in Lackey’s Elemental Masters series. What I love about this series is you don’t have to read it in order. Each novel is a story within itself. Various characters are shared throughout the series but you learn enough about each within each novel to understand the story. Each book delves into a different folk tale and sets them in Great Britain during the late 1800’s. This allows for two themes to emerge. First the effect of the Industrial Age on magic and it’s creatures. Second the treatment of women during this time period. This novel is a good example of both. The main character, Mari, is a good Welch daughter. Her father is a fisherman with uncanny luck. On her 18th birthday she learns the secret of that luck, held by her family since the time before King Arthur. It involves the Selch, the Welch version of Selki, and the little water creatures that only Mari can see. The Elemental Masters send two psychic’s to investigate the new Elemental Water Master and they become embroiled in a plot to help Mari out of her dilemma. The world has changed since the family made it’s deal with the Selch and now there are things like constables that get in the way by investigating disappearances. Also women no longer sit back quietly while marriages are arrange for them. They want some say in the man they are pledging their lives to and Mari is no different. She is smart enough to use the laws of man and of magic to turn things to her favor but not without a fight. While this is an enjoyable book it sometimes makes things just a little to easy. When the two young women psychic’s travel across Britain and stay in Wales they do it in style and don’t run into any major difficulties. It would have been interesting to see things from the antagonists viewpoint as they lack enough humanity to make them more than caricatures. But the book does ring true to the idea of folk tales and fantasy and is a fun read.
3 out of 5
While not the usual fantasy, The Fairy Godmother does fit Tolkien’s definition of a fairy tale or fantasy. Set in a world where fairy tales come true and fairy godmothers attempt to control the outcomes it is more a fantasy romance. Ella’s life has all the makings of a fairy tale, dead father, evil stepmother and stepsisters, forced to cook and clean, she should find her prince. Unfortunately the only nearby prince is only 11. In swoops the Fairy Godmother taking Ella as an apprentice and showing her how the Tradition works. A major theme in the story is how does a woman with power find love without being forced into one of the Traditional paths. As Fairy Godmother Ella is charged with helping questors and get tangled up with one. The story follows a traditional romance path while exploring the way men and women view relationships. Ella is definitely not a woman in need of a white knight. She has given up any hope of finding a man who will be her equal. While not a traditional fantasy it is an interesting view of fairy tales and their treatment of women. Lackey has written a number of re-takes on famous fairy tales and this book is a logical continuation of that work. It is the first novel in her Five Hundred Kingdoms series. While it is is a fun book to read, I did not find it to be as complicated a world as those she created in her Valdamar series. I was also concerned with the main character’s use of punishment to “train” a man. Physical punishment is only threatened and never used but I don’t quite see how that differs from it’s use by men to “train” women. In the end I find I prefer Lackey’s other work.