I received this book for free from NetGalley, the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: The Herald Spy #3
Published by DAW Books on October 4, 2016
Genres: High Fantasy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
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Herald Mags, the King of Valdemar’s Herald-Spy, has been developing a clandestine network of young informants who operate not only on the streets of the capital city of Haven, but also in the Great Halls and kitchens of the wealthy and highborn. In his own established alternate personas, Mags observes the Court and the alleys alike, quietly gathering information to keep Haven and the Kingdom safe.
His wife Amily, is growing into her position as the King’s Own Herald, though she is irritated to encounter many who still consider her father, Herald Nikolas, to be the real King’s Own. Nonetheless, she finds it increasingly useful to be underestimated, for there are dark things stirring in the shadows of Haven and up on the Hill. Someone has discovered many secrets of the women of the Court and the Collegia—and is using those secrets to terrorize and bully them. Someone is targeting the religious houses of women, too, leaving behind destruction and obscene ravings.
But who? Someone at the Court? A disgruntled Palace servant? One of the members of the Collegia? Someone in the patriarchal sect of the god Sethor? Could the villain be a woman? And what is this person hoping to achieve? It isn’t blackmail, for the letters demand nothing; the aim seems to be the victims’ panic and despair. But why?
Mags and Amily take steps to minimize the damage while using both magic and wits to find the evildoer. But just as they appear to be on the verge of success, the letter-writer, tires of terror and is now out for blood.
Mags and Amily will have to track down someone who leaves few clues behind and thwart whatever plans have been set in motion, and quickly—before terror turns to murder.
Any release of an all-new book set in Valdemar is cause for celebration in my book, and Closer to the Chest, book 3 in the Herald Spy series, is no exception. Valdemar is Mercedes Lackey’s fantasy kingdom where spirit-horses called Companions pair up with humans, called Heralds, and together not only ensure the safety and supremacy of the government and their overarching law (“There is no one true way”) but preserve the integrity of the nation.
In this book, newlywed Heralds Mags and Amily find themselves facing an altogether different sort of intrigue. Rather than the game of preemption and prevention they’re used to–especially given that both Mags and Amily’s father are spies–they must investigate a set of crimes and attempt to stop the perpetrator (or perpetrators) before they can escalate from mayhem to murder.
I relished the challenges put to the characters in this volume of the Herald Spy series because Mags and Amily found they had to employ a new way of thinking, focus on playing detective rather than spy, even as they worked to adjust to their newly married state.
This second aspect of the challenge they faced was a bit subtle but I liked how, because they were married now, their relationship problems stemmed from trying to find ways to make each other happy or at least avoid making each other unhappy rather than from working to stay together despite everything that might keep them apart. They ARE together, as is plain to see, and that brings an entirely new set of challenges in the love department. Of course, our heroes hurdle them beautifully.
As far as the big mystery goes, I think I would’ve liked a teensy bit more intrigue, but that’s just because I enjoy it when a book keeps me guessing. Apart from this point, though, I don’t have much to complain about.
In fact, one thing I really enjoyed was how relevant the story was to this day and age, so if I had a child in elementary or middle school I would put this book into their hands immediately, just because the way the book tackles the issues of women’s rights, bullying, and victim-shaming are something that could stir open and critical thinking in people who are still forming their ideas about the world and their place in it.
Closer to the Chest was another win for Mercedes Lackey, reinforcing my fandom and leaving me wishing I didn’t have to wait another several months for the next installation in this series.
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Reading Order: (Mags’ Story)