Series: Last Herald Mage, book 1
Year of publication: 1989
Summary: Young Vanyel Ashkevron feels like an outcast in his own family. His father seems to hate him, his brothers despise him, and his mother only cares about the way his beauty and musical skills ornament her bower. Worse, his sword-fighting teacher physically abuses him. Finally, his father — desperate to make Vanyel into a manly man — sends him to be fostered by his (Vanyel’s) aunt Savil, who is a “herald-mage” in the capital city of Haven. There, rather than being beaten into manly shape, Vanyel finds a place where he can be himself. He also discovers he is “shay’a’chern,” or gay, and falls in love with his aunt’s apprentice, Tylendel. Briefly, Van and ‘Lendel are very happy, and realize that they are “life-bonded” soul mates. But then Tylendel’s twin is murdered, and Tylendel goes mad with desire for revenge. He does bad things, and as a consequence, Vanyel’s latent magical abilities awaken. Then things go very wrong, Tylendel’s magic horse “Companion” is killed, and Tylendel kills himself out of grief and shame. Van would have died as well, but in the midst of all this he is “chosen” by a magic horse Companion of his own, who saves his life. The rest of the book is about Van’s grief, healing, and magical training.
Thoughts: I liked it, although it was very melodramatic most of the time. I didn’t like that the love interest was killed off so abruptly. While it’s nice that being gay is just one facet of Van’s character and not the only thing that gets any attention, the romance is kind of the reason I read these things.
Because the world-setting of this book was already constructed in other works, the author was able to focus on telling the story without a lot of exposition. On the other hand, the story felt rushed sometimes, especially compared to Lynn Flewelling’s deliberate pacing (whose first “Nightrunner” book I read right before this one).