Friday, August 3, 2012


Sorry, I just couldn't resist. Today's book post features a review of Changes by Mercedes Lackey.  It's the latest installment in her long-running Heralds of Valdemar series, which has long been a favorite of mine. For whatever reason, I've left this book languishing in my to reads stack since its release last October, but I finally picked it up a few days ago, and have hardly put it down since.

The Basics
Lackey, Mercedes. Changes. New York: Daw Books, 2011. Print

I'm going to skip my usual author's bio, since I've already done a pretty thorough one in a previous post. Instead, I'm going to provide a little background on the series itself.  Valdemar is kingdom governed by a King or Queen backed by his or her Heralds.  Heralds (in Valdemar, anyway) are the kingdoms special forces, chosen at a young age by their Companions. Companions, in their turn, look like white horses but possess a human-level intelligence. Since this is Fantasy series (you know, in case you were still wondering), most Heralds are chosen because they possess special Gifts, which can range from mindspeech, to telekinesis, to fire-starting.

Changes, is the third book in Lackey's latest installment known as the Collegium Chronicles.  The book finds Mags and his friends once again pitted against mysterious agents of an unknown enemy to the kingdom. Along the way, Mags and his friends, Lena, the Bard, and Bear, the Healer, each find themselves proving their worth in their various professions in a pretty basic coming of age tale.

The Book
As is my norm, I greatly enjoyed this book.  I've long been a fan of Lackey's writing and style, and this novel lives up to that standard. I suppose, in a way, it's more of the same, but that same is great. I can never have to much of the world Lackey has painstakingly and thoroughly built.  This book picks up the interesting Heraldic role of spy, that she dabbles with in some of her other novels (Alberich, Skif), and runs away with it. Having Mags in training to be take over the role of spy allows readers to follow along and learn the ins and outs of the position, the kingdom, and the capital city of Haven. What results is an immersive and engaging read.

I do, however, have one complaint. Mags's speech.  Let me provide you with a sample: "Well, reckon now thet th' King's put 'is oar in, ye won't hev'ta see 'em if'n ye don' wanta. Le's git a walk afore it gits stinkin' hot." And that's not even the worst passage I could find; there are a few words I still haven't puzzled out.  It's tiresome and makes reading through it a slog. Towards the end of the book I'm used to it enough that I can convert as I go, but still.  Lackey overdoes it, and she attempts an explanation by having Mags prove that he can speak properly if he wants to put in the effort and doesn't because his speech allows people to underestimate him. This just doesn't cut it. If you need to work an excuse for something into your novel, something is wrong. I can handle poor speech, but tone it down a bit!

Nevertheless, the characters Lackey utilizes in this book (and really this whole set of books) are some of my favorites. Each character offers a different window into life at the Collegium (the training ground of Heralds, Healers and Bards located at the Palace).  Bear gets us a glimpse into the Healers' Collegium from the unique perspective of someone without the traditional healing gift. Lena gains us access to Bardic and all its ins and outs. Mags of course offers a view of the fledgling Heralds' Collegium. And his other friends provide a view of Palace and noble life. I think that for the first time in Lackey's Valdemar series, readers are given a full picture of the Collegium, making the experience that much more engrossing.

I love the books, and they'd make a great place to pick up the Valdemar series if you haven't already. Start with Foundation. Another good places to pick up the series: the Arrows of the Queen trilogy.


  • Checkout Mercedes Lackey's lengthy bibliography organized in series order (and the rest of the website while you're over there).
  • The fourth novel in this set is due out October 2 of this year. Keep an eye on the Goodreads page for more info.

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