The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey is a compilation of three books that tell the story of Herald-Mage Vanyel, originally published separately as: Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, and Magic’s Price.
This m/m fantasy collection starts with Magic’s Pawn that introduces Vanyel Ashkevron and details his harsh upbringing and eventual relocation to stay with his aunt, Herald-Mage Savil, where he learns to follow his heart and allows him to discover his own worth. Meeting the extremely talented and charismatic Tylendel changes his life, but attention-starved Vanyel may not have enough resources to deal with the challenges of a personal relationship.
Magic’s Promise follows Vanyel as he deals with the responsibilities of being a Herald-Mage in the face of increasing threats to the kingdom, both from without and within. Vanyel also copes with the challenges of family, both acknowledged and unacknowledged, plus adds a new charge to his overwhelming burdens. Again and again, Vanyel must be willing to give his all, until he figures out what magic’s promise truly is.
Magic’s Price details the radical changes in both Valdemar and Vanyel’s life that will have lasting effects. There are also frightening shifts in Karse even as Valdemar’s king is fading and the heir makes a radical decision of her own. The bard Stefen finds a way to make himself invaluable but Vanyel discovers there’s much more to him than he realized, which is good, because the weapons being utilized to attack Valdemar and its inhabitants are unlike anything the Herald Mages are used to and every defense becomes vitally important. As evil mounts, it is possible that all will be lost, and the price of safety may be higher than anyone can possibly pay.
I fell in love with this author’s Valdemar series several decades ago. This was fantasy that intrigued me, combining a well-built world with magic and the fascination of horse-type beings who were wise and able to communicate with their special partners. Combining my love of animals with my fascination for magic and ESP, these stories transported me a place that inspired me to believe that there was a place where at least one being could find the best in one and always be there for you. Then I read these three stories, probably some of the first m/m fiction that I had been exposed to at that time. Wow. I couldn’t remember crying while reading a story before, and while I was horrified by some of the occurrences in these tales I was still anxious to read more. In retrospect, it is fascinating the way the author expanded on the mystique of Valdemar and laid the groundwork for tales about some of the surrounding lands which have their own complex relationship with magic and gods and the ongoing struggle between good and evil. Getting a chance to glimpse beings such as the Hawkbrothers (yum), learning new words such as shay’a’chern/shaych (which was a far kinder term for being gay than some of the ones I was hearing in real life), and being exposed to a society where there are those who are capable of learning from their mistakes yet go on to do wondrous and heroic deeds all inspired me just as much as the stories coming from a certain popular science fiction series did. It is not often I think of tales as life-changing, but I consider these to have changed my life and attitude at the time, making me take a look at the world around me and want to change it for the better.
Having the opportunity to read these stories again so many years later reaffirms my fascination with Mercedes Lackey’s Bard-like voice. I was amazed to realize that despite fuzzily remembering some of the horrific events from my previous exposure to these tales, I was still brought to tears (pretty embarrassing, since I was in a doctor’s office at the time, lol) and strongly invested in the characters. It was fun to realize how things played out with some of the other threads and I was reminded how many different peoples I came to know and admire in these books that connect with Valdemar. Please be advised that there are themes that may serve as triggers to those who are sensitive to them, and a dismaying number of losses occur throughout as can be inferred by the title of the trilogy. This is still one of my favorite trilogies in the fantasy genre and I am delighted that this author has written 95 books and is still going strong. Make sure you set aside plenty of time once you start the book…and don’t forget to have tissues close at hand!
A copy of this title was provided to me for review.
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