Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Closer to the heart by Mercedes Lackey

Closer to the heart is the second book in The Herald spy series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in Closer to home - you can read this story independently but you will enjoy it more if you have read Closer to home and The Collegium chronicles which is the story about how Mags came to be a Herald of Valdemar.

Life has settled into a routine for Mags, he spends part of each day working the streets of Valedemar as Harkon - keeping an eye of the streets of Valdemar as one of the common people.  As Harkon he is privy to things that no Herald should ever know, and that most Heralds would have no way of fininsding out.  His troupe of rescued children are growing and thriving, his eyes and ears on the street when he can't get down to Haven - and as they get too big for the streets he quietly finds places for them in the houses of the highborn to learn how to blend in and spy in the noble houses.  It is a busy life and leaves little time for him to spend with Amily, but that is not such a bad thing as she has very little time of her own since she became King's Own Herald.

Life has been ticking over quietly for some time, and Mags knows that when you have had lots of good luck for a long time it means that you are due for some bad luck and it comes in the form of the Ambassador from Menmellith.  Relationships with Menmellith have been good in the past, but that is about to change. There are serious accusations against Valdemar, accusations that can and will lead to war with Menmellith if the issue is not resolved.  It comes down to Mags and Amily to try and solve the mystery of this latest threat to the safety of Valdemar - right when they are supposed to be planning for their wedding.  Seperated to follow their own paths, Mags and Amily will need all their wits about them to solve the mystery before Valdemar is dragged into war with a kingdom where a child sits on the throne and the Council rules in his place.  

I have been a fan of Mercedes Lackey since I was a teenager and her Valdemar series is one of my favourite worlds - partly because of the Companions (who wouldn't want one) and partly because of the underlying messages that I wished were true in our world - there is no one way for religion and there is generally no stigma about same sex pairings.  When I was a teenager some of these themes, and they are themes rather than preaching delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, helped me see the world in a different more accepting way.  Lackey has an ability to create a fantasy world that is so real you can almost taste it, a world where everything is very real and grounded - there may be magic but it has rules and consequences.  The people are the heart of the story and what drives it forward, the relationships and consequences of those relationships seem very real and it often feels like returning to old friends when you enter the world of Valdemar.

With The Collegium chronicles Lackey broke out of the trilogy mould for Valemar - except for a few stand alone books she has always written trilogies, and it will be interesting to see if The Herald Spy series develops into a trilogy or more.  It has also been interesting to spend so much time with a single character and their time in Valdemar - Elspeth would be one of the few other characters that we have gotten to know this well as she was carried through several of the trilogies, though not always in the lead role.  

This is world worth exploring and experiencing, and while I do get a bit frustrated reading sections where Mags talks "common" because it seems a little overdone (sorry Mercedes) but that is the only drawback and the irritation slowly fades the more I get sucked into the story.  Overall a great read with some intrigue, some drama, and a developing relationship between Mags and Amily.

If you like this book then try:
  • Foundation by Mercedes Lackey
  • Magic's pawn by Mercedes Lackey
  • Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Burning brightly by Mercedes Lackey
  • Throne of glass by Sarah J Maas
  • Sing the four quarters by Tanya Huff
  • If I pay thee not in gold by Piers Anthony and Mercedes Lackey
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
  • The diamond throne by David Eddings
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara

Reviewed by Brilla

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