This fantasy story is part of a series which centers around a well-developed world that features arcane beings known as Companions, which look like horses yet have far more exceptional capabilities, not least of which is their ability to communicate directly with the human they have ‘Chosen’. Ideally, one should be familiar with the premise of the kingdom of Valdemar, especially since this particular tale picks up where “Redoubt” left off, but those familiar with one of the many interconnected series should have no trouble relating to Mags and his allies. There are intriguing glimpses of the challenges of daily life in outlying villages as well as fascinating revelations about Mags’ heritage and interconnections with other series by this prolific author. I was again reminded of why I fell in love with these horse-like beings and the mystical connection that they have with one another as well as with the humans whom they have sometimes rescued from harsh situations.
The very understandable challenges of life that we all may face, including surviving in harsh weather, finding a way to support oneself, wanting to be worthy of a mate, etc., are dealt with in a unique fashion that blends common sense and magic, which is what makes these stories so pertinent yet entertaining. There are thought-provoking discussions, including the examination of local governance versus the monarchial structure and the pros and cons of each as well as a chilling look at a very different society. I was a little frustrated by the antics of the senior members of the party who accompany Mags, as I felt that the struggle between them was disingenuous at best, and required an unbelievable degree of obtuseness, particularly on the part of one whose stock-in-trade is communication and persuasion, but the overall story was very enjoyable and enlightening as usual, and displays the author’s typical dexterity at creating a vivid world and a compelling story. A delightful addition to the series that will entertain and enthrall.
“Bastion” by Mercedes Lackey is part of the ‘Collegium Chronicles’ series and continues the saga of Mags, Herald-Trainee, after his harrowing experiences which uncover mysteries about his heritage. The decision to send a group to explore the site of an ongoing bandit infestation as well as do a circuit around the surrounding regions causes a series of life-changing events for Mags and results in even more surprises that will impact both him specifically and Valdemar as a whole.
Mags returns to the Collegium, but there are mixed feelings--his included--about him actually remaining there. No one doubts that he is and should be a Herald, but he is afraid that his mere presence is going to incite more danger right in the heart of Valdemar.
The heads of the Collegia are afraid that coming back to his known haunt is going to give him less protection than if he went into hiding. Everyone decides that going elsewhere is the solution for now. So since he is going elsewhere--why not return to the place he was found in the first place and look for clues? And those who are closest to him, and might provide secondary targets, are going along.
Together they head for the Bastion, the hidden spot in the hills that had once been the headquarters of a powerful band of raiders that had held him and his parents prisoner. But what they find is not what anyone had expected.