Mags is well settled into the Collegium and is steadily working towards becoming a Herald, but fate is determined to through road blocks in his way and they are not always obvious. His close group of friends are also facing their own challenges - mostly from their respective fathers. Bear has created an amazing and valuable resource for people who aren't Healers and who don't always have access to a Healer, but his father sees it as nothing and wants to drag him home so he can make babies that might just have the Healer gift that Bear lacks. Lena is facing her own demons, her father has a new protege, and to make things worse there is a rumour going around that she is not really her fathers daughter, despite the Bardic gifts that she carries. Mags would normally help to smooth things over and help them stay together, but instead he is dragged into an intriguing mystery with the King's Own Nikolas.
There are dangers a foot as well, with plans to fix Amily's leg pushed aside with no warning and no reason, and even though Mags may be in a position to find out what it is it may be too late to stop things spinning out of control and placing the whole kingdom in danger. Even with his Companion Dallen as his constant support and teacher, Mags is still not prepared for some of the secrets he is about to expose. Mags skills at deducing what is going on around him are going to be stretched to the limit because this time he is not only part of the solution, he is also part of the problem. The forces that are moving against Valdemar are also moving against him, and this time the people sent after him are scarily good, so good that even Mags may not be able to stay out of their clutches for very long. There are some unpleasant days ahead for Mags, and some of the biggest questions are still who is he, who were his parents, and why is he a target?
This is the third novel in the series and by now Mags, Lena, and Bear are like old friends. Mags has continued to develop as a strong character, and the relationship between Mags and Dallen just rings out as one of the truest Companion/Herald relationships, right up there with Talia and Rolan, and Vanyel and Yfandes. It is often these relationships that make these novels and the world of Valdemar so magical and engaging. The one thing that bugged me about this novel was trying to figure out what Mags was saying some of the time - yes I know he has a thick and uneducated way of talking, but sometimes it was just too heavy handed with the way it was written and reading late at night didn't help. Here is a silent plea to Mercedes Lackey to try and make it a little easier next time and to not lay it on quite so thickly.
The world of Valdemar is one of the most engaging in fantasy and over the decades there have been some stunning series with epic battles, mysteries, and the odd touch of romance to keep you thoroughly engrossed. I have to admit that as a teenager the world of Valdemar had no small part in forming some of the ideas that have stayed with me as an adult - including subtle comments about religion and sexuality. It is difficult to forget the simple motto of "there is no one way" when it comes to religion, with all the different temples and deities accepted by everyone in Valdemar (okay, pretty much anyone). And it is difficult to forget some of the amazing relationships throughout the novels that show that it is not what the other person looks like that matters, it is who they are inside - and the homosexual relationships are treated with the same attention and equality as the heterosexual relationships without pushing them in your face or being over the top - they are treated as an equal relationship.
It looks as though The Collegium Chronicles may be a long running series, a break from the trilogies that Lackey has written in the past. As long as the story keeps developing as it is, the suspense of Mags' past should keep you coming back, and coming back - because something is building on the horizon and it looks as though Mags is going to be at the centre when whatever is coming finally happens.
If you like this book then try:
- Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
- Magics pawn by Mercedes Lackey
- Winds of fate by Mercdes Lackey
- The Elvenbane by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton
- Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
Reviewed by Brilla