In truth, this is my first post in Fantastic Teacup. The previous posts are all from an older blog, moved for preservation and to bulk up this blog a little, since an empty blog can be as intimidating as a blank page. Fantastic Tea is a kind of continuation of a blog I haven’t updated in a year—basically, a reboot. New look, new name, and soon: all new content!
Now, I’m going to kick-start Fantastic Teacup with a blast from the past—my past, but if your tastes ran alongside mine, these could well have been the loves of your teenagerhood: The Heralds of Valdemar series, by Mercedes Lackey.
Now, Mercedes Lackey is not even what I would call ‘fine literature.’ Having been ruined/refined (take your pick.) by too many literary writing classes in university—namely Writing 100, which will ruin some books you previously loved—I have some trouble reading Mercedes Lackey now. She uses too many gosh-darned italics. She doesn’t show enough and she writes too much exposition. Her characters often seem psychic even when they aren’t—though to be fair, many or most of her characters are psychic. And she’s so prolific with em-dashes that I can’t shake the habit myself.
But she’s got boatloads of heart. And for me, heart is the most necessary element of fiction. No matter how flawed a characters is, if they’re written with heart and love than they will be compelling and you’ll root for them even if they’re antagonists.
So, lingeringly, I still love her books. I still love Valdemar. The fact that Mercedes Lackey also wrote a great many songs about her world and got the late, talented Heather Alexander (now the present, talented Alexander James Adams) to sing many of them, helps my love considerably. I love folk, and filk makes my geeky heart delight.
I decided to read all the Valdemar books in chronological order, which I’ve never done—I read them first in more or less published order, which I think is the correct way to do it.
I made this decision because I read the brand-new Collegium Chronicles books—and disliked them. Immensely. They felt like a confused rehash of Lackey’s standard abused-kid-is-rescued-and-healed plot (which I ordinarily love) with…. just too much exposition. Not enough personality, somehow. I couldn’t get into them. They felt rushed. Unpolished. Was this the Valdemar I was so passionate about when I was 13, 14, 15? Could my taste have been so poor? Was my lingering affection for Mercedes Lackey foolish and misbegotten?
Some time later I reread Magic’s Promise—the middle book of the Last Herald-Mage trilogy, my favourite, and realized that it wasn’t bad. It had personality, craft, and Vanyel, the main character, was still compelling. That was when I decided to go through the rest and ferret out how these books work, why I loved them so much and why, despite the sometimes grating writing style, I am still enthralled by the world of Valdemar and its many varied heroes.
While I’ve already started this venture a little out of order, I’ll be doing a book review per book, in chronological order, starting with a more general review and then moving into a spoiler-filled, in-depth analysis. Stay tuned for book 1 of the Mage Wars Trilogy, The Black Gryphon!