Series: The Herald Spy #2
Published by DAW Books on October 6, 2015
Genres: High Fantasy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
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Mags was a Herald of Valdemar. But he had once lived the brutal life of a child slave. When he was Chosen by his Companion Dallen, his young life was saved, and he slowly adjusted to being well fed, educated, and treasured as a trainee in the Herald’s Collegium at Haven. Singled out by the King’s Own Herald, Mags would thrive in his secret training as a spy. His unusually strong Gift—an ability to Mindspeak and Mindhear anyone, not just others who were Gifted—made him a perfect undercover agent for the king.
Sequel to Mercedes Lackey’s Closer to Home, this adventure continues Mags’s journey as Valdemar’s herald spy.
Let me start out by describing a little of what goes on in Closer to the Heart, which is book 2 in Mercedes Lackey’s Herald Spy series, since the blurb says more about the series and virtually nothing about what goes on in this installment.
Newly engaged couple Herald Mags and King’s Own Herald Amily have found their wedding plans hijacked by the Crown, which fully intends to capitalize on it and turn it into so much political and diplomatic fanfare. But things must be postponed as a plot is uncovered that could potentially bring Valdemar into war with its politically unstable neighbor, Hardorn. While Amily must do her best to diffuse the situation from the capital, Mags is sent out to mine country—the first time he’s returned here since being rescued from child slavery—to ferret out possible conspirators.
There are many things I like about this book. The first was that I believe it’s the first novel of Valdemar that tracks a Heraldic couple from both points of view. Sure, we’ve seen couples in the past, notably Herald-Princess Elspeth and her Hawkbrother mate Darkwind, but most of their story didn’t take place in Valdemar itself, and Darkwind is not a Herald, and while there’s also the couple made up by Queen’s Own Herald Talia and Herald Dirk, their love story comes quite late in their dedicated series. So I was keen on seeing the rhythm Amily and Mags would find as a couple, with the weight of their duties resting so heavily on both their shoulders.
The second is that this brought Mags back to Valdemar’s mine country, which he hadn’t really visited since he was rescued child from slavery at a mine in the very first book of the Collegium Chronicles, Foundation. Here, I think, is a bit of a reward for fans. If you’ve followed these books from the beginning as I have, you’ll appreciate the difference between the mine Mags was saved from and the one he visits in this story, and while I felt like Lackey may have underwritten the emotional impact of these contrasts, I also felt like I could gather a lot about what she didn’t say. It also made me curious as to how it would affect Mags’ outlook once all the current stresses were over and done with.
The third is learning more about the spy network in Valdemar. I really enjoyed how this was treated in the two books about arms master Herald Alberich as well as in the earlier books on Mags’ life, but this volume really gets into the nitty gritty of it, which I liked. And there was a return to that favored warsport, Kirball! In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t share details, but if you enjoyed the way Lackey wrote about the games in the Collegium Chronicles, you’ll enjoy this one.
I guess the only thing that kept me from giving this read a five-star rating is that it didn’t seem quite as action-packed as the previous novel. Not that it felt like an unnecessary series filler—don’t get me wrong on this point. It very much felt like Lackey was establishing some of the calm before the storm, so while I wasn’t quite as engaged as I have been in some of her other books, I can see how it would work in the rhythm of a four- or five-book series, which I’m hoping this will be. I’m also looking forward to seeing how she amps up the action and the intrigue in the novels to come. So while Closer to the Heart isn’t a full five stars, it’s definitely very solidly a four.
Feel Factor Rating:
Reading Order: (Mags’ Story)