Series: The Last Herald-Mage, #3
Author: Mercedes Lackey
the once-peaceful kingdom protected by the magic of its Herald-Mages – is now beseiged on all fronts. The king lies near death, the neighboring land of Karse wages a relentless war against Valdemar, and the forces led by a master of dark forbidden magic are massing to strike the final devastating blow against the kingdom.
And Vanyel, the most powerful Herald-Mage Valdemar has ever known, has become the primary target of the evil which is reaching out to poison all the land. With all his fellow mages slain, Vanyel alone remains to defend his people against the dark master’s army. Yet a dream vision has revealed to Vanyel the fate which awaits should he and his Companion Yfandes take up the dark master’s challenge. And if either Vanyel or Yfandes falters, the dream will become a horrifying reality in which both Valdemar and its last Herald-Mage must pay the ultimate price ….
Rating: Unforgettable, Heart-touching, Character-driven and focused
As usual for this series, the back cover is more than a little bit off, but I don’t feel like writing a synopsis of my own right now. This is the first book in the series that I read, and it was the first book I ever read that convinced me it was possible for me to enjoy a romance, perhaps because the romance in this book is not so much a romance (though it has some element of that), and it is a relationship, and neither is it the only relationship. If you want something that falls into the thick of the action and epic adventures, this book isn’t that. But it’s one that has beautifully-crafted relationships, from the bond between Vanyel and his horse-shaped Companion, Yfandes, to the stellar friendship between Medren, an exception Bard, and Stef, an even more exceptional Bard, that soars right over the obstacles and petty conflicts that doom so many relationships before they begin, to Stef’s loving obsession and friendly courtship of Vanyel – to so many others.
Not all of the character or relationships have a whole lot of space, but you can feel them and the threads of those relationships – Shavri, the Healer-lover of the dying King Randale, who’s desperate not to burden her daughter, Jisa, with the throne, and her love and marriage to Treven, the Herald-Heir. There’s the friendship between Vanyel and the same King. And the characters … they feel so real, and yet so wholesome. Vanyel is what sometimes seems idyllic and utterly pure from a distance, so focused on helping others and putting their needs above his own, keeping all his own fears and feelings behind a mask of ice, but there’s such trauma and loss behind what he’s become, and so much fear behind his retreat, and there’s the potential for that to wake into a river of insane, unhindered rage for vengeance – and Stef is the one who can heal him and make him remember many of the joys of being human. And at the same time, Stef tells himself that he’s entirely self-centered and only in things for his own advancement, yet when he sees Vanyel, his obsession turns into a genuine love and concern for his well-being, and the need of others call to his desire to help, even though he tells himself that’s not what’s going on. And he responds to combative situations where he’s totally out of his depth in ways that make sense – for who he is, a simple Bard, not simple perhaps but very Gifted, but with no experience, aptitude, or training for real combat or intense situations.
Another thing I really loved was the Princess and the Heir, Jisa and Treven. They’re absolutely in love with each other – a “life bonded pair,” and they decide to get married because of this, even though Jisa’s Mom doesn’t want her in line for the throne, and others want to leave open the possibility of an alliance-marriage to the Heir-soon-to-be-King when Randale dies, and Vanyel is one of these – but the implication is that they did the right thing in marrying each other. I really liked the balance of it.
This is one of my very favourite books, and it has the ending that has caused me to say forever after that one of my favorite endings is “Happily Ever After X Tragic Ending.” This is a story where death is not to be feared.
Review for Book One (Magic’s Pawn)