Tag Archives: Heralds of Valdemar

Bastion by Mercedes Lackey

Overview

Bastion

Title: Bastion
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: The Collegium Chronicles #5, Valdemar #11
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves:
Easy readingFantasy
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Daw fantasy
Year: 2013
5th sentence, 74th page: If anything, it was with a certain measure of relief.

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Synopsis

When Herald Trainee Mags was abducted by two magical foreign assassins, he spent weeks drugged, robbed of his Mindspeech, and unable to communicate with Dallen, his Companion. Trapped in terrifying, drug-induced dreams, his only moments of peace came from brief visions of a woman who he felt might be his mother. Though he eventually managed to escape his captors, he left with many unanswered questions.

Moreover, Mags knows that, after searching for him for years, the assassins will not give up.

Mags has powerful allies in Haven, and together, the heads of Herald’s Collegium devised a plan: to send Mags, all of his friends and loved ones, and other trained fighters into the hills to a stronghold called The Bastion. Banded together, they are less vulnerable to the assassins, less likely to be picked off one by one.

The Bastion is the same stronghold where Mags’ parents had been murdered by bandits. The drugs he’d been given opened up memories that couldn’t be his – and gave him knowledge of fighting styles unknown in Valdemar. Perhaps his new-found memories will spark recognition in the place where his parents had once been imprisoned. Mags might unlock the secret of who his parents had been and, in doing so, finally know his own identity.

Thoughts

This was a fantastic conclusion to the Collegium Chronicles. The slow lead up to understanding Mags’ past and his integration into the Heraldic society finally hits its climax and we are welcomed into a new age for Mags and his cohort. Getting a completely open look into his past let’s all the pieces of the puzzle that Lackey so painstakingly laid out fall into place.

I love this conclusion to the Collegium Chronicles, but there was never one story or challenge throughout the series (unlike say, the overall battle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort). I’ve found this throughout the majority of Lackey’s books thus far, there isn’t one over-arching tale, but rather, a group of little ones. Normally I would find this tactic within writing really frustrating, after all, a character needs a good character arc. But in Lackey’s books, it works very well. The character arc is about finding oneself and your place in life, rather than an epic battle or one single lightbulb moment of self-discovery. This uniqueness is what keeps me coming back to Lackey’s books again and again.

Mags and Amily’s relationship is one of the least drastic literary relationships that I have ever come across. And I love it. They don’t have a passionate and all-consuming love, and there is almost no drama throughout their courtship. They are both quiet and contained people, and this shows in the way that they handle themselves in their relationship. It’s the way in which they are so distinctly different from others that draws me in. It’s a great reminder of the fact that love takes many forms and it doesn’t have to be bright and flashy to be real.

<- RedoubtCloser to Home ->

Image source: Amazon

Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey

Overview

Redoubt

Title: Redoubt
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: The Collegium Chronicles #4, Valdemar #10
Rating Out of 5:  5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Easy readingFantasy
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Daw fantasy
Year: 2012
5th sentence, 74th page: Without the armor, without helmets, without the padding, this was just a romp.

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Synopsis

CAPTURED!

Life at the Heralds’ Collegium in Haven has definitely improved for Mags. He’s even become something of a hero since risking his life to rescue his girlfriend Amily – daughter of Nikolas, the King’s Own Herald – from Karsite kidnappers. His training as an undercover agent for the crown is progressing. he is no longer the “foreigner” so many students distrusted. Life is good.

But Mags still doesn’t know who his parents were, and though he knows there are skilled, determined assassins hunting for him, hired by Karse, Valdemar’s longstanding enemy, he doesn’t know why. So it is necessary for mags to be always on his guard.

Mags has grown extremely strong, agile, and remarkably adept at running across rooftops, slipping down drain pipes, and sneaking unseen along dark alleyways. But now it is time for Mags to graduate to a new role: Nikolas’ partner and information broker. And Mags discovers that he’s quite good at his new job. So good, in fact, that Nikolas decides to let him run the undercover operation in town along one hot summer night.

Mags has barely unlocked the shop when everything goes black in a blinding flash of pain.

He wakes with an agonizing headache, bound, blind-folded, in a conveyance of some kind. But worst of all, he’s head-blind. No Mindspeech – he can’t even sense his Companion Dallen. And if he can’t sense or hear Dallen, then no one can sense him. And if no one can sense him, then this may well be his demise.

Thoughts

We all have a past, and no matter how hard we run from it, it will come back to haunt us. It’s true that the past has shaped us and all of those wonderful clichés, and Lackey reminds us beautifully of this in Redoubt. Mags doesn’t remember his past, but it constantly reappears in his life to torture and harass himself and his friends. It’s a fact that both fascinated and frustrated me throughout the story – it was easy to understand that Mags’ biological family had some amount of importance, but that was it. I like to know things, so not knowing drove me a little crazy. So, it was wonderful to finally find out more about his family and past.

Not only is Mags forced to confront his past in Redoubt, but it also takes him hostage – quite literally. He is taken, drugged and enforced to relive moments that he never knew existed. Although I know that my past won’t literally turn up out of nowhere and take me into the woods, it is a strong reminder that ignoring what has been before can bite you in the ass.

Mags’ horrifying upbringing is a bi-story throughout the series, and his innate toughness is really bought to the fore in this story. It is such a strong reminder that we can survive whatever is thrown at us, as long as we are strong (or stubborn) enough. He is in the worst of situations, but his physical and mental stubbornness allows him to survive and eventually return to his people.

<- Changes Bastion ->

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Changes by Mercedes Lackey

Overview

Changes

Title: Changes
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 readingFantasy
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Daw fantasy
Year: 2011
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.

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Synopsis

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.

Thoughts

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.

<- Intrigues Redoubt ->

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Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey

Overview

Intrigues

Title: Intrigues
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: The Collegium Chronicles #2, Valdemar #8
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Easy readingFantasy
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Daw fantasy
Year: 2010
5th sentence, 74th page: This is important enough that they are about to be intercepted.

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Synopsis

FOREIGN BLOOD

Mags has been an orphan working in a gem mine when his life was saved by his companion, Dallen, who took him to Haven to be trained as a Herald. Now he was never hunger and never cold. He slept in a real bed in his own room and, most importantly, he had Dallen, who was like another part of himself. And yet, aside from Lena and Bear, both loners like Mags, he couldn’t relate to most of the Herald, Healer, or Bard trainees. He was the only trainee who came from what – to the others – was unimaginable poverty. And since Mags had no tolerance for the chronic complaining of his fellow trainees, this kept him feeling like an outsider, even though he was part of an elite corps of students.

But there were other factors that contributed to his isolation. For Mags had been “recognized” by foreign assassins fleeing the court. These spies had escaped the Royal Guard and never been questioned. Now, Mags was an object of suspicion among his fellow students, and even some of his teachers. After this incident it seemed far more urgent to discover exactly who his parents were. And at Haven, he had access to the extensive Archives.

Poring through the Archives, day after day, Mags finally got some answers, but they were incomplete: his parents, found dead in a bandit camp, had been two of a number of hostages, some of whom had survived. These survivors had told the Guard that Mags’ parents spoke a language that no one understood or even recognized. So Mags’ parents were foreigners, though from what country no one seemed to have any idea.

But rather than help his situation, this information did just the opposite, for ForeSeers had been having visions of the king being assassinated by “one of foreign blood” and some had even Seen Mags with blood on his hands.

How could Mags defend himself against a crime that hadn’t yet been committed?

Thoughts

Intrigues returns us to the world of Mags’ and the building of the Heralds Collegium. Mags is finally settling in to his new life and his small group of friends. I love that he isn’t a popular kid, he has a select few with whom he is close, and that is enough. I’ve never understood the idea of quantity over quality with friends, and Lackey helps to drive this home. You only need a few people who really care about you, not an entourage of characters that just happen to be there.

Lackey always deals with the idea of the ‘other’ really well. Intrigues highlights this through the use of Mags’ foreign blood and the ease with which his peers believe in his guilt. The way he is completely ostracised from the group because of the vague predictions of a future teller is incredibly cruel. But, the way that his friends choose to rally to his aid is a reminder of the importance of quality in relationships, something that can be really difficult to find.

This theme of bad luck and misunderstanding is even echoed in Mags’ own friendships towards the end of the story. Childish misinterpretations and jealousies not only further this, but also remind us that we all have a little evil in ourselves. No one is perfect, and there is nothing more frustrating than reading a story about a perfect protagonist. Mags’ self-doubt and insecurities about his own worth as a human makes him even more relatable. And has given him a special place in my heart.

<- Foundation Changes ->

Image source: Homecoming Book

Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Overview

Foundation

Title: Foundation
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: The Collegium Chronicles #1, Valdemar #7
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Easy readingFantasy
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Daw fantasy
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: Outside the windows, the sun was setting.

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Synopsis

THE BUILDING OF THE HERALDS’ COLLEGIUM

Mags has slaved at the gem mines for as long as he could remember, completely unaware of how unusual his paltry existence was – until some strangers on huge white horses forced their way past the mine owners and carried him away to Haven to become a Herald Trainee.

Suddenly the whole world opened up for him. He was warm and well fed for the first time in his life, and he had Dallen, his Companion, who seemed more miraculous than an angel. But the world of the Collegium was not all heavenly. there was political upheaval in Valdemar’s capital, for the ancient way of training Heralds – the system of one-on-one mentoring that had been successful for centuries – was failing. Many veteran Heralds had died in the wars, and there were too many Trainees to go around. A Heralds’ Collegium was being built, and many thought it was wrong to train Heralds in classrooms the same way the Bardic and Healer Trainees were schooled. But dissent among the Heralds was no the only discord in Haven, for the court had been infiltrated by foreign “diplomats,” who seemed to be more interested in seeding discontent than in actual diplomacy… and Mags seemed to be the only one who’d noticed…

Thoughts

Foundation was a really unique book in my eyes. Most books have a very specific plot line and journey through the chief protagonist’s life. Foundation, not so much. It’s almost like a huge introduction for the remaining three books in the series. Not that this is a bad thing. Of all of the Mercedes Lackey books I’ve had the pleasure of reading, it is Mags that I feel the most connected to. So much so that when I finished reading this series, I turned right around and started to read it again.

Lackey has this incredible ability to take real human tragedy and cruelty, and show you how it can affect a person’s sense of self, confidence and even physical well-being. Foundation is no different. Child slavery is still occurring throughout the world, and it is something that most of us don’t really want to think about. Especially when it is all too easy to imagine the same thing happening to your own loved and cherished ones. So, the telling of Mags’ journey from child slave (really no better than a wild animal) to Herald hit me hard. There is something especially terrifying about the corruption and destruction of childhood innocence. At least for me. Mags’ childhood and back story made me appreciate my own life and upbringing to a whole new level.

Foundation is the first book in my favourite Valdemar series thus far. The combination of the creation of the Collegium, Dallen’s humour and Mags’ gratefulness for the simple things in life bought these characters to life and made me turn the pages again and again and again. Combine that with the beauty and simplicity of Bear and Lena’s friendship, and this story was very sweet and enthralling in its every word.

<- Magic’s Price Intrigues ->

Image source: Mercedes Lackey

Exile’s Honor by Mercedes Lackey

Overview

Exile's Honor

Title: Exile’s Honor
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Exile #1, Valdemar #20
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Easy readingFantasy
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Daw fantasy
Year: 2002
5th sentence, 74th page: Even the smell was the same: clean sweat, leather, leather oil, a hint of sawdust.

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Synopsis

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?

Thoughts

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.

<- Stolen Silver Exile’s Valor ->

Image source: Goodreads

Arrow’s Fall by Mercedes Lackey

Overview

Arrow's Fall

Title: Arrow’s Fall
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Heralds of Valdemar #3, Valdemar #25
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Easy readingFantasyStrong women
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Daw fantasy
Year: 1988
5th sentence, 74th page: I’ve told you that before.

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Synopsis

VALDEMAR’S PERIL!

With Elspeth, the heir to the throne of Valdemar, come of marriageable age, Talia, the Queen’s Own Herald retursn to court to find Queen and heir beset by diplomatic intrigue as various forces vie for control of Elspeth’s future.

But just as Talia is about to uncover the traitor behind all these intrigues, she is sent off on a mission to the neighboring kingdom, chosen by the Queen to investigate the worth of a marriage proposal from Prince Ancar. And, to her horror, Talia soon discovers there is far more going on at Prince Ancar’s court than just preparation for a hoped-for royal wedding. For a different magic than that of the Heralds is loose in Ancar’s realm – an evil and ancient sorcery that may destroy all of Valdemar unless Talia can send warning to her Queen in time!

Thoughts

Arrow’s Fall was an epic end to my first Mercedes Lackey trilogy. The climax that had slowly been building in the previous two books finally reached a crescendo, and I’m not ashamed to say that I shed more than a tear or two.

Talia is finally strong enough to face her demons; both internal and external, and her ability to triumph in the worst of situations is awe inspiring. Not only does she overcome her own ragged insecurities, she survives torture and loss to eventually come home to love in the final chapters.

The highly climatic end to the trilogy perfectly sets the storyline of Valdemar for the next trilogy (Mage Winds) which I have yet to read. The series leaves you content because Talia’s battle has been won, but also tense because you know that your beloved characters are on the precipice of war. I really loved this combination of tying up loose ends and setting the reader up for the next series.

All of the Valdemar books tend to do this – they are very interrelated and once you have read one series, you generally have access to main characters in another. But they are also easily read in isolation of one another, so you can start reading these emotionally turbulent books at any point within the chronology of the Valdemar universe.

<- Arrow’s Flight By the Sword ->

Image source: Fantastic Fiction

Arrow’s Flight by Mercedes Lackey

Overview

Arrow's Flight

Title: Arrow’s Flight
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Heralds of Valdemar #2, Valdemar #24
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves:
Easy readingFantasyStrong women
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Daw fantasy
Year: 1987
5th sentence, 74th page: “So that you have an excuse to carry arrows wherever you go,” Kyril replied.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

HERALD’S CHALLENGE!

Talia could scarcely believe that she had finally earned the rank of full Herald. Yet though this seemed like the fulfillment of all her dreams, it also meant she would face trials far greater than those she had previously survived. For now Talia must ride forth to patrol the kingdom of Valdemar, dispensing Herald’s justice throughout the land.

But in this realm beset by dangerous unrest enforcing her rulings would require all the courage and skill Talia could command – for if she misused her own special powers, both she and Valdemar would pay the price!

Thoughts

Lackey is a unique writer. She takes insecurities and some (very) deep seated issues and turns them into a sort of power, or a hurdle to jump. It’s why I love her books, depression, anxiety, even a variety of forms of abuse are taken and help to shape her characters into stronger people. I know that it doesn’t always work like that in real life, but the idea that you can take all of those bad things and become a stronger person is somewhat inspiring. It’s what I’ve spent my life trying to do.

Arrow’s Flight takes the insecurity and unsurity of person that Talia felt in Arrows of the Queen and investigates what happens when these feelings are amplified. It asks what happens when others prey upon your insecurities? What happens when they get amplified tenfold? The addition of supernatural powers just helps to illustrate her point even better. I loved this take on a main character; the fact that she is just so damn vulnerable makes her a heck of a lot more relatable and loveable.

Not only were Talia’s insecurities explored, but through this journey, her strength and abilities were found. This, along with her growing sense of self and relationship with her mentor made Arrow’s Flight an incredible journey. The growing relationship between Kris was one of my favourites of the whole series. For all of Talia’s softness, she has a backbone and when Kris oversteps his bounds, she puts him straight back into his place. It’s a mixture of comradery, passion and familial love and it just works beautifully.

The juxtaposition between strength and vulnerability in this book is awe-inspiring and made me realise that I have flaws, but I have strengths too. And we can all use these.

<- Arrows of the QueenArrow’s Fall ->

Image source: Goodreads

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Overview

Arrows of the Queen

Title: Arrows of the Queen
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Heralds of Valdemar #1, Valdemar #23
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Easy readingFantasyStrong women
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Daw fantasy
Year: 1987
5th sentence, 74th page: Bright Havens, child, he’s your Companion now; if you really wanted to, you could sleep in his stall!

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

A KINGDOM IMPERILED!

Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a runaway, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen’s own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.

But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason which could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen’s heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen’s own foes!

Thoughts

Words can’t even express how awesome I found this book. I’m reading it for the second time in a week as I wait for the next one in the series to arrive. I think I’ve found my new favourite author! A good heroine, a great fantasy world and a fantastic story line. What more could you ask for?

It’s rare that I find a heroine that isn’t sassy, sarcastic and has a major attitude problem that I can love and admire. But, Talia manages to mix humility and insecurities in a quiet, withdrawn persona with a backbone of steel. Talia’s journey from ignorant, abused border girl to a strong and powerful Herald in her own right underpinned her adventures and experiences throughout the story.

This book was a great introduction to the Valdemar universe and the Companions that create such a peaceful realm. If you like fantasy, then this is a highly recommended series – an oldie, but a goodie.

<- Take a Thief Arrow’s Flight ->

Image source: Amazon