It’s been a little while since I picked up a Valdemar book. Mostly because as much as I love them, they are often pretty heart wrenching. There is always some kind of abuse or emotional turmoil that just doesn’t seem to be as prominent in many of the other fantasy books that I read. So I honestly need to make sure that I’m in a good headspace whenever I pick up one of these novels… which I was when I picked up The Black Gryphon. And boy am I glad. It was enjoyable, fun and an absolutely great read. Even if there was still that signature Lackey tragedy that made the enjoyment a little less… joyful.
I bought this collection because the very last story is a short story in the Mercedes Thompson series that I don’t yet have. And I started reading this last year to try and get me into the Christmas spirit. And it worked. Beautifully. Fantastically. I’m actually sad that it’s over, even if I finished it after the Holiday Season…
I first heard of Krampus a few years ago when an Austrian friend came to stay with me. She showed me YouTube footage of the celebration, and damn is it terrifying! Although, I can understand why some parents would want to tell their children the legend of Krampus – a lump of coal isn’t enough of a deterrent to stop them from being absolute terrors…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As usual, Mercedes Lackey managed to seriously surprise me with this story. Similar to The Last Herald Mage trilogy, I knew that Brightly Burning would be a tragic tale – it’s mentioned in some of the other Valdemar books. But, it still hooked me and took me on an amazing journey through Lavan’s short, and sad journey.
Where Exile’s Honor dealt with coming to terms with a changed reality, Exile’s Valor shows us how it is possible to take strength from this adversity and embrace it. This is a story of coming to terms with oneself and using this to create a better future – not just for yourself, but for others. This story reminded me of the fact that even though change tends to rock me to my core and leaves me feeling unshakey and unsure at the best of times, it has always been a great agent for obtaining a better future. No matter whether the change is good or bad, desired or not, it can be used to make your future better… at least, that’s the way that I choose to see it.