I never cease to be amazed by the textures that are inherent in this well-established and intricately complex fantasy world. The realism is such that I am instantly transported to one of my favorite universes whenever I open one of this author’s books, yet there are plenty of aspects of society there that are yet to be explored. The fascinating melding of fact and fantasy (e.g. the implications of performing CPR and its repercussions) provide thought-provoking interludes even as the sobering look at the undersociety of the kingdom and the struggle to survive with limited resources and education gives realism to the tale. I love watching Mags and his colleagues mature over the course of the series, even as I cringe at the crucible that he is undergoing, and it has been heartwarming watching Amily bloom. I think that it would be a little challenging to be introduced to the complexities of Valdemar without any prior experience but that a reader new to the overall arc of these stories would still be able to appreciate the basic premises of this exciting tale and probably would search for other stories set in this world. This is a great addition that any fan of Valdemar will appreciate and I look forward to discovering what new adventures these characters find as they continue to grow into their new roles.
“Closer to Home” by Mercedes Lackey is part of the Valdemar universe and signals the start of a new arc in the ‘Herald Spy’ series which features Mags and Amily as they are abruptly thrust into roles of greater responsibility. An unusual occurrence results in an unprecedented transfer and the framework for the spy network that he is setting up requires that Mags utilize everything that Nikolas has taught him plus his own innate sense of what will work and how to achieve what he wants from the tools at hand. Changes are at hand in Valdemar, and it’s up to Mags and Amily to make sure that the changes are for the better.
Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.
Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?