I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This fantasy is a hardcover edition that was published by DAW Books on October 4, 2011 and has 326 pages.
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Other books by this author include Unnatural Issue, "The River's Gift", Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar, Foundation, Intrigues, Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, Owlknight, Charmed Destinies, Beauty and the Werewolf, Invasion, Home From the Sea, Dead Reckoning, Conspiracies, Bedlam's Edge, Crown of Vengeance, Redoubt, Harvest Moon, World Divided, Elemental Magic: All New Tales of the Elemental Masters, Sacrifices, Steadfast, Burdens of the Dead, Bastion, Victories, Blood Red, The House of the Four Winds, Games Creatures Play, Closer to Home, Born to Run, Wheels of Fire, When the Bough Breaks, Chrome Circle, Changing the World: All-New Tales of Valdemar, Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar, Arcanum 101, A Tangled Web, Winter Moon, Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar, Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters, No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar, From a High Tower, Hunter, Closer to the Heart, Silence, A Study in Sable, Elite, Closer to the Chest, Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar
Third in the Valdemar: Collegium Chronicles which provides us with background on how the current three colleges — Bardic, Herald, and Healer — came to exist using the mystery that surrounds Bardic Trainee Mags.
If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Valdemar books on my website.
The central theme for this particular sub-series within the main series of Valdemar is of the development of the three Collegiums into a more central educational system instead of the previous apprentice-mentor roles. Using Mags as the central character allows Lackey to set up scenarios of attack while giving power to children as the resolution builds their self-confidence…which is what we want for our own children. Mags brings personality and empathy while his adventures create a fascinating story.
I strongly encourage parents to introduce their kids to the Valdemar series. There is such strength of character and high moral values expressed in this series. Lackey does an amazing job of creating a fascinating series of stories that I simply can’t put down until I have finished them. And then I feel rather desperate to find the next! I HATE having to wait for #4 in this particular subset!!
Having uncovered the group of assassins seeking to destablize Valdemar, Nikolas, the King’s Own Herald, is still suspicious. He believes that the original group never left Haven, and he is determined to find and eliminate them, using an undercover role he created years ago. In this, he intends to include young Mags, a Bardic Trainee, to whom he has been teaching spycraft techniques.
A tricky dance of spying on extremely able assassins while balancing the more public promotion of the changes in the Colleges through the new sport of Kirball along with the individual issues rising up amongst Mags’ friends leaves Mags with a very tense summer. Bear’s innovations bring praise from the Healers at Haven even as his Healer family despises him for not having a Gift while Amily grows more and more impatient for her promised surgery to deliver her from her crippled state while under threat. Lena. Lena almost has it worst of all with her selfish, egotistical father, Bard Marchand, as he defrauds those around him and betrays everyone for his own ends.
While Mags is the obvious lead with a great deal of strength of character and high morals, he is seconded by Nikolas and his own Companion, Dallen, with Bear, a Healer Trainee, with no Gift but amazing skills. Additional strong support comes from Lena, a Gifted Bardic Trainee, in love with Bear and Amily, Nikolas’ crippled daughter who is loved by Mags.
Nikolas grants Mags permission to assemble his own support team as the two of them escalate their own relationship of teacher-student…and friends. It’s an interesting trick demonstrating the power of being friends with people from all levels of society and age groups.
The Cover and Title
The cover is basically the same concept as the first two although initially it appears different. It’s simply more complex in its background of a red-toned chessboard with rooks representing the castle at Haven creating the diagonal lines. It does include the gold-framed picture-in-picture with a red-trimmed Dallen rearing up to protect Mags from a masked abductor recalling the scene from the Kirball exhibition game. The one false note is the series of ropes around Dallen’s neck as someone attempts to control his efforts.