Magic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey

Series: Last Herald-Mage, book 3

Genre: Fantasy

Year of publication: 1990

Rating: ♥½

⊗SPOILERS⊗

I’m angry at this book, but I feel like I shouldn’t be surprised. The plot of this series was always a bit weak and juvenile, the writing always a bit too melodramatic; but things didn’t really tank until the last 1/3rd of this book. 

A powerful and mysterious enemy is killing off Herald-Mages. No one knows who he is, or why he’s doing this, or where he comes from, or how to stop him. After all the Herald-Mages are dead except for Vanyel, the “Last Herald-Mage” sets out to track down the bad guy and kill him. Along for the ride is Van’s new love, Stefan, who is supposedly the reincarnation of Van’s dead lover.

This was all fine, and I might have given the book 3 hearts if it hadn’t bombed at the end. It was the rape thing that really threw me. Vanyel is a crazy-powerful herald-mage, who could level a city with is mind, but he gets gang-raped by a bunch of bandits? WTF? I’ve read plenty of books that feature sexual violence, and although it’s definitely not something I like to read about, it doesn’t make me hate the whole book on principle. In this case, it was just so random and out of place. It didn’t do anything for the story or the characters, at least that I can see, and it just seemed like such a weird thing to make Vanyel’s character deal with at that point in the story.

Looking back over the series, I see that Vanyel is basically a perpetual victim. Even when he’s powerful, he’s a victim of “fate,” or “duty,” always being made to suffer for one reason or another. Maybe that wasn’t such a cliché for gay character back in the late eighties and early nineties when this series came out, but it’s definitely cliché now.

Maybe I’m not judging the series on the right criteria — or maybe it just hasn’t aged well. I can imagine being a young teen at the time this came out and absolutely loving it. Now, with so much more great quality stuff to choose from, I guess I’m just not impressed.

Magic’s Promise by Mercedes Lackey

Series: Last Herald-Mage, book 2

Genre: Fantasy

Year of publication: 1990

Rating: ♥♥♥

Summary: After Magic’s Pawn, I was eager to read more about Vanyel; though with Tylendel gone, I wondered what sort of romantic action we’d see. The answer? None. Twelve years have passed since the end of the first book, and Vanyel is now 28, and the most powerful mage in known existence. He still hasn’t gotten over the loss of Tylendel, and it doesn’t seem like he will anytime soon.

In this book, Van mends his relationship with his family, as well as with his old armsmaster. It turns out the angry, prejudiced father and abusive teacher were nice guys all long underneath. Not impossible, but a complete reversal from the first book. Van spends most of the book exhausted and on the verge of collapse. It basically becomes a normal state for him, and eventually loses the power to elicit sympathy from the reader. Despite being seemingly at the very end of his strength, Van still manages to pull off whatever it is he’s trying to do, and the reader eventually stops worrying about him.

A few characters from the first book apparently died off-stage before the start of this one, which is too bad because more likeable, well-developed characters would have made the book stronger. Another minor character dies off-stage towards the end of the story as well, maybe to prove that it can happen.

I’m looking forward to book 3, because I read someone’s review that mentioned a new love-interest.

Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

Series: Last Herald Mage, book 1

Genre: Fantasy

Year of publication: 1989

Rating: ♥♥♥½

SPOILERS

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).