Most helpful critical review
Anyone who enjoys the Valdemar universe and wants more
on March 3, 2015
This review has been crossposted from my blog at The Cosy Dragon.com. Please head there for more in-depth reviews by me, which appear on a timely schedule.
The first ever collection of Valdemar tales by other authors set in the world of Mercedes Lackey. As it so charmingly states on the front cover, there are 18 tales! Some are written in concert with Mercedes Lackey, and the opening and closing stories are both by the same collaborators.
The cover is somewhat unexciting, and I didn't think that the Companion's eyes were really blue enough to be convincing. The stories inside were a bit of a mixed bag, but then, who ever likes absolutely everything?
'Sunlancer' by Philip M. Austin and Mercedes Lackey reinforces the power of the word, particularly in Karse. It's a sentiment I agree with, and this short story is remarkably well written and compelling. You do seem to know what will happen, but the ending is still a little of a surprise.
'The Demon's Den' by Tanya Huff is a tale of hope and overcoming adversity without being too pretentious about it. It shows how ordinary citizens (not really written about in Lackey's own books of Valdermar) are often sad when they are not chosen as Heralds, even if they are self-sacrificing. Jors seemed a little one dimensional, but there was potential for more. I liked Ari, although it was not obvious to me that she was blind.
'Iron Rose' by Larry Dixon and Mel White shows what the hertasi get up to when the hawkbrothers aren't watching! A touching story, perhaps lackign a little in depth, but satisfying all the same. It is obvious that the hertasi are good at this!
'Babysitter' by Josepha Sherman shows a touch of healthy cynicism! Yay for not totally being given over to babysitting immediately. There were some problems though: griffins aren't exactly easy to care for and I expected even a youngster to be a little more grumpy (and less puffbally). Ending of this one is a little abrupt, and I felt like this story could have been set in almost any world with griffins, not just that of Valdemar.
'The Salamander' by Richard Lee Byers is ok. I don't like Selden, and I'm not fond of the way this story is written (too much personal opinion and stilted observations). I guess it could be a good one for those of you who like mysteries. Reminds me a bit of Romeo and Juliet actually.
'A Child's Adventures' by Janni Lee Simner shows what happens when an older Herald is chosen. Inya can't believe she is chosen, and she must discover for herself why it might be important for her to become a herald.
'Blood Ties' by Stephanie D. Shaver is painful to read, and potentially triggering. The things some people do to their families. Well written.
'... Another Successful Experiment' by Lawrence Schimel reminds me of polo! Various games have already been played in Valdemar via the books that Lackey herself has written, so this is nothing new. Exile's Honor/Valor as well as the new Collegium Chronicles both have this type of game. Nothing groundbreaking.
'Choice' by Michelle West creates Kelsey, a spunky character who has always wanted to be chosen but has gone her life without it. She manages not to become sour, and when the oppertunity to look after a Herald comes up, she jumps at it! In doing so, she encounters many more things than she thought she would. A very good story that explains why some people are chosen or not. A thing I did notice was a typo of 'their' instead of 'there'.
'Song of Valdemar' by Kristin Schwengel shows what happens when someone is gifted with the wrong thing. It really does seem very sad, and the fact that it touched me indicates it it well written.
'The School Up the Hill' by Elisabeth Waters was also good. Sometimes it seems like the number of coincidences is too great, but it is magic! It's a little confusing at first, and the reader has no idea what is going on, but it's good because of that.
'Chance' by Mark Shepherd deals with one of Vanyel's lovers. Vanyel will always hold a special place in my heart. The dialogue is a little stilted, but this perhaps reflects well what the two men feel. I wasn't sold on the concept of a gay brotherhood, nor that being gay gives you an erection at bad moments! This short story is contiguous with Vanyel's novels, which is awesome though.
'Sword of Ice' by Mercedes Lackey and John Yezegulalian is the title short story of this collection. I think that the title doesn't really go well with it. You get to know the background of Savil, Vanyel's mentor. A little confusing for this to come after 'Chance'.
'In the Forest of Sorrows' by John Helfers is also about Vanyel, after he has become a forest spirit. I'm not sure this short story really portrays him as I imagined - he was never so overconfident and I didn't know he could 'Fetch'.
'Vkandis' Own' by Ben Ohlander is filled with the heat of battle, and what the aftermath means in Karse. We see the beginning of Solaris' takeover of the Priesthood, but really it's hard to know what will happen.
'A Herald's Honor' by Mickey Zucker Reichert fills in a bit of the border folk for me - I'vealways been fascinated by the Holderkin, and wished that Lackey had done more. The reader needs to do a little thinking, and use their logic - it might even help you evaluate your own values.
'A Song for Noone's Mourning' by Gary Braunbeck doesn't fit for me. The half world that is depicted is unlikely, as is the behaviour of the Herald involved. It's a nice idea, and relatively well written, but it doesn't fit for me.
'Blue Heart' by Philip M. Austin and Mercedes Lackey has the format of a story within a story, something I often enjoy. It's good, although I did want more about the hidden Herald, rather than the butterfly. It wasn't exactly the thrilling conclusion I wanted for the short story collection, too soft and questionable - but perhaps that's the way it was meant to be.
I struggled to work out why these short stories were ordered as they were. Had I been in charge of it, I would have either grouped them by area (Karse vs Valdemar) or by time, while also stating where in the continuity they came.
I'd recommend this book of short stories for anyone who enjoys the Valdemar universe and wants more. The majority of these stories are enjoyable and canon-like for this universe. The majority of tales are suitable for teens and adults alike.