Title: Exile’s Honor
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Exile #1, Valdemar #20
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, Fantasy
Publisher: Daw fantasy
5th sentence, 74th page: Even the smell was the same: clean sweat, leather, leather oil, a hint of sawdust.
TRAINING THE ENEMY
Alberich has spent most of his youth in the Karsite military schools training to be an officer. As the son of an impoverished mother, he had had no other career choice open to him. And Alberich had risen in the ranks with almost unnatural speed. He developed expertise with many weapons and excelled in academic subjects with an ease that was the envy of his classmates. But in fact, the reclusive Alberich studies long and hard, pushing himself ruthlessly.
In battle, Alberich had always had a sort of “sixth sense” about things which were about to happen – when and from where the enemy would attack. Instinctively, he hid his ability, for the Sunpriests kept careful watch for anyone exhibiting the “demon powers” which were the hallmark of Karse’s greatest enemy – the witch-nation of Valdemar. Those they caught were “cleansed” in the fires of Vkandis Sunlord.
Both Alberich’s skill and secret served him well in the army of Karse, and when Alberich became one of Karse’s youngest captains, he received a special gift – a powerful white stallion “liberated from the enemy.” But this honor was merely a distraction, for the Sunpriests had laid a trap which even Alberich’s strange foresight could not predict…
Saved from burning as a witch when his odd white stallion braved the flames and carried him over the border into Valdemar, he was healed by the same enemies he had been taught to hate his entire life. Though he knew he could never again return to his home, Alberich also knew he could never truly become a Valdemaran. How could Alberich remain true to his own people and still retain his honor while helping to train the direst enemy of Karse?
I’ve read a lot of fantasy books that have a tough arms master to train the main character in self-defence. Regardless of the period of history or the weaponry used, they all seem to have the same things in common – they are tough, strict, unsmiling and incredibly efficient at killing, fighting and making sure their charges survive. So it was a real pleasure to read a tale that helped me to understand how a man could become an arms master.
I really enjoyed discovering how a Karsite could become the weapons trainer for Valdemar, they’re enemy states after all. Alberich’s journey explained just this phenomenon. But it went deeper than that, it helped to show me why there was a war being fought between these two literary countries. Even though it is fantasy, it highlighted the reason behind wars being fought both today and in times past.
It was incredibly interesting and insightful to view two sides of the same argument (or war). It reminded me of something that my Mum always told me growing up; it takes two to tango, or there’s two sides to every story. Even though Lackey helps us to side with Valdemar (after all, this is the home of all of her main characters), she also helped me to feel sympathy for the soldiers on the other side – forced or tricked or manipulated into fighting a war.
It’s always hard to embrace change, but Alberich is forced to do so, and very quickly within the occurrences of Exile’s Honor. Instead of being a simple transition from the ‘bad’ side to the ‘good’, it was a journey of emotional and spiritual turmoil that was prevalent throughout the entire book. I loved that Lackey didn’t try to simplify such an act that would certainly tear a man in two.
I loved the complexity of this book and that Lackey chose to investigate the grey areas of such potent discussions.
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