Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: The Collegium Chronicles #3, Valdemar #9
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, Fantasy
Publisher: Daw fantasy
5th sentence, 74th page: Mags noted how the young man was acutely sensitive to any vibration, looking almost immediately when the floor trembled the slightest bit as someone nearby dropped something heavy.
THE SPY TRAINEE
Mags was a Herald Trainee in the brand new Heraldic Collegium in Haven, Valdemar’s capital city. Though his background of unimaginable poverty and abuse set him apart from most other trainees, nonetheless he had found his own special group of friends. Bear, Lena, and Amily were all students whose situations in life set them apart from more usual trainees, and together the four friends struggled to help one another find the solutions to their individual problems.
But Mags’ friendship with Amily brought him to the attention of her father Nikolas – the King’s Own. The seemingly immortal Companion Rolan had Chosen Nikolas to suit the specific needs of the current monarch, and those needs were for an agent who could collect information surreptitiously – a King’s Own spy. Nikolas recognized the same traits in Mags that Rolan had recognized in him. Both were inconspicuous with an almost uncanny ability to fade into the woodwork. Both could mimc low-class behavior and pidgin speech. Both were unusually expert at observing the situations around them, and at ferreting out hidden motives.
So Mags began training as Nikolas’ partner. They worked in disguise at night in one of the seedier parts of Haven, where Nikolas had set up a false identity as a pawnbroker and fence. Hiding in the shadows behind the desk, pretending to neither hear nor speak, Mags could better “observe” the clients, and even the surrounding neighborhood. And Nikolas could send him out on “errands” to chase down leads.
But this new job was far more dangerous than Mags had ever considered. For there were mysterious agents in the city – agents who sought to bring down the kingdom, and no one knew where they came from or who they worked for. They were smart, talented, and preternaturally fast. And most of all they were willing to do anything – anything – to bring Valdemar to ruin.
The challenges that Bear started facing with his familial issues really come to light in Changes. The conflict that starts to build in Intrigues is heightened and Lackey poignantly reminds us that family isn’t everything. I loved the contrast with Amily and Lydia’s families, they show exactly what unconditional love is all about. It’s a great reminder that blood isn’t everything and sometimes it is actually okay to say goodbye to family.
The other great theme in this story is that of Amily. She undergoes surgery to remove her crippling injuries. Not only is she able to finally walk around on her own, but Lackey reminds us that crippling sometimes isn’t just of the body, but also of the heart. Amily’s ability to simply move around on her own gives her a greater feeling of self-confidence and assurance. She undergoes physical repair, but it is the social and emotional restoration that really means something in this story.
Although this story is still focused upon Mags, it is the journey of his friends and pseudo-family that really drive it home. Lackey has an uncanny ability to take issues that we all face in our daily lives and use them to construct a story that engages and enthrals us. Her stories remind us that some issues are universal and love is worth fighting for, even if it’s not the love of our blood family.