Herald Mage Vanyel is exhausted - body and soul. As the most powerful Herald mage left in Valdemar he has been deployed to the battlefront to take the place of not one, not two, but five Herald mages in their war with Karse. He is worn away to nothing and being on the battlefield for a year has left him hypersensitive and with a hair trigger. The worse thing is that his King has no choice but to deploy him to battlefields as he is literally the only person with the power and skill to do what is needed. To save his friend the King has prodded Vanyel to take leave far away from Haven, which means he is making a much overdue long visit to his family holding - after all, the King can not call on his services if he is nowhere to be found!
The trip home is a dreaded pilgrimage, because although he is the most powerful Herald mage in Valdemar, and a high ranking Herald he always feels like a disappointment to his family. It doesn't help that his mother refuses to accept that he is shaych and throws every eligible woman (young and old) in his direction in the hopes that he will change his mind and start a family of his own. His Aunt Savil offers to accompany him as she is also overdue for an extended visit and the promise of support at home is almost too good to believe. The rest will do Vanyel and Yfandes some good - but only if they actually get to rest.
A scream for help from a Companion and their new Chosen draws Vanyel, Yfandes and the rest of the family into a complicated mess over the border. Tashir, heir to the throne has been accused of murdering his entire family and his people are baying for his blood. Spiriting Tashir and his Companion across the border into the family home leaves Vanyel and his family vulnerable - because the killer has big plans and a couple of Heralds and their Companions are not going to stop them. Something is coming, something that reeks of power and danger. A storm is coming, and everything and everyone Vanyel loves is in danger.
After finishing Magic's pawn I jumped straight into Magic's promise - with the story picking up roughly ten years after the events in Magic's pawn. I was once again dragged into the emotionally draining story of Vanyel and his path to becoming a living legend, and a legend that will be remembered for many years to come. The Vanyel we see now is older and wiser than his younger self, someone who is able to look at the bigger picture and push aside emotion to deal with the things that must be dealt with. His ability to compartmentalise the different parts of his life is one of his greatest skills - and probably one of the few things that stop him from going over the edge. The legends talk about his power, but not about the little things and big things he has to deal with.
Through the events in Magic's promise we see some of the reasons that he isolates himself and holds himself apart from others - it is difficult to lose people and have them used as pawns in power games if you don't make deep connections with other people. Once again we also see some characters that bear the scars of emotional and physical abuse - the kind of characters that Mercedes Lackey has a knack for creating and making you care about. This is a middle book - it builds on the story in the first book and sets the stage for what is to come in the last book - but it is a very good middle book. I have already started reading Magic's price and the tears are already prickling knowing what comes next (not just because I have read it before, but also because the story of Vanyel is well known in later times).
If you like this book then try:
- Magic's pawn by Mercedes Lackey
- Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
- Burning brightly by Mercedes Lackey
- Sing the four quarters by Tanya Huff
- Throne of glass by Sarah J. Maas
- A court of thorns and roses by Sarah J. Maas
- Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
- Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
- The diamond throne by David Eddings
- Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara
Reviewed by Brilla