Book Review: Beyond by Mercedes Lackey

Posted December 1, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Beyond by Mercedes Lackey

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Beyond by Mercedes Lackey
Genres: Fantasy
Published by DAW on June 15, 2021
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also by this author: Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill, Victories, Blood Red, The House of the Four Winds, Closer to Home, Changing the World: All-New Tales of Valdemar, Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar, 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, A Scandal in Battersea, The Hills Have Spies, The Bartered Brides, Dragon's Teeth, Eye Spy, Breaking Silence, Pathways, The Case of the Spellbound Child, Jolene, Passages, Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, The Serpent's Shadow, The Oathbound, The White Gryphon, The Silver Gryphon, Spy, Spy Again, Oathbreakers, The Lark and the Wren, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, The Wizard of London, The Robin and the Kestrel, Oathblood, Exile's Honor, The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley, Owlflight, Exile’s Valor

First in The Founding of Valdemar fantasy for Young Adult readers subseries in the Valdemar universe and revolving around how the kingdom of Valdemar came to be. The focus is on Duke Kordas of Valdemar and his plans to save his people. (Technically, Beyond is the fourth in chronological order.)

If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Valdemar books on my website.

My Take

This is fascinating! All those hints I’ve read over the years and Lackey is finally going to reveal why and how the country of Valdemar came to be. Although, I suspect more about the actual settling will come in the third book.

Lackey uses third person global subjective point-of-view, if only because there are several perspectives with most of them coming from Kordas’ perspective.

Oh yeah, ya gotta like Kordas, especially after he “rescued” Delia and all her things from that jumped-up couple.

Lackey certainly caught my attention with all the comments about what a jerk the Emperor is and how the lords of Valdemar have been secretly making preparations, hiding caches, and providing a refuge for mages.

We do know that Kordas is doing all he can to avoid the Emperor’s attention, even to the point of hiding the fact that they had children. It does keep the kids safe. And ain’t that just sad!

Ooh, there’s a reference to the Cataclysm. That Mage-Storms create Change-Circles when their waves intersect. We also meet the vrondi and learn their truth. It explains quite a bit about Vanyel and his spell to protect Valdemar in Magic’s Promise, 2.

Most of the attention has been on Kordas and Delia. Poor Kordas. He wants to save the world, and his wife wants him to save himself and their own people. Meanwhile Delia is discovering what a sheltered life she’d led.

Beyond has a mostly fast pace with lots of tension in this homey story. I came to care for the characters and felt sad as people split up. Even worse was reading of that bloody Emperor along with a theory on how he came to be.

It’s a sweet statement about Kordas’ compassion and care for his people, how the land is a place of peace and quiet beauty. And it comes with such a hideous betrayal and a truth.

The Story

Valdemar has been preparing for decades against the Emperor’s plans, the only thing they lack is the Plan to escape him with as many of their people as they can.

They also need those Talismans, if any of it is to work.

The Characters

Kordas, Duke of Valdemar and educated mage, is planning to betray the Emperor. Isla, a mage with a Mindspeaker Gift, is Kordas’ wife and Delia’s sister. Fidelia “Delia”, his sister-in-law with a Fetching Gift, is one of the best shots in the manor. Arial is Kordas’ favorite mare and foaling. Cestin is his Healer. Stafngrimr “Grim”, is the stablemaster. The gay Hakkon Indal is Kordas’ cousin, Lyantha’s sister’s son, and the reputed father of Kordas and Isla’s three children who include Restil. Hakkon is also Kordas’ seneschal and will choose Brianta for his squire. Lady Lyantha was Kordas’ mother; Duke Erik had been his father. Kordas lays out his pedigree with the first Duke of Valdemar, Lerren, made by High King Sonat I; Lokan; Polmar; Hrothgar; Ugo; Werther; Erik; and now, Kordas.

Tomen is the chief steward. Beltran is his herald and the best knife-fighter in the duchy. Klemath is the weapons-master. Kristoff is carrying the coracle. Kordas is providing a refuge for mages. The Circle is composed of six very old mages: Ponu, Dole, Wis, Koto and Ceri and Sai who they think are twin brothers. Other mages include the light-fingered Jonaton, the most powerful mage and the most senior; Pelias, the youngest mage and who had been Jonaton’s apprentice; and, Siman. Sydney, a black cat, is one of Jonaton’s pets.

The wealth of Valdemar was in its horses. The Valdemar Golds are rarely sold out of the Duchy; the Charger line is heavy horses favored for tournaments; the Tow-Beasts pull barges; the Sweet-foot palfreys; and, the Fleetfoot racehorses. Penta and Kery are two of the Sweetfoot palfreys. I suspect Sundrop is one as well. Barge hulls are Valdemar’s other cash “crop”.

The Landwise Squire Lesley is a pig farmer, the local magistrate, and one of Kordas’ favorite people. Half the duchy depends upon him. The Empress is Lesley’s prize sow. Kliff Reskin a pub owner and brewer, is Lesley’s chief rival. There are eight Counts and some of their people in on the plan. Lord Gerther, Count Endicrag of Endicrag Manor has a cousin, a Healer named Alberdina who was willing to go in the first wave. His sixth son, Ivar, can’t wait to explore. Bay is Ivar’s mastiff. The Valdemar Charger, Manta, will become Ivar’s horse.

When Delia and Isla’s father died, the Emperor swooped out and threw Delia out, giving the estate to the new Baron of Sterngal and his snooty wife. Isla’s twin brother, Idor, had been one of the Emperor’s hostages and had died there. Lord Merrin is one of Kordas’ neighbors and the Emperor’s spy. The Barony of Lepodal got a humongous tree out of a Change-Circle.

The Emperor is power-hungry and likes to keep his landholders on edge. Duke Elnore knows Kordas raises horses. Count Declaine rolls his eyes. Baron Pierson. Duke Holiger is an Imperial favorite. Prince Morthas of Halengard loves salacious gossip. Macalay was one of the hostages who was bullied back in Kordas’ day.

Instead of human servants, the Emperor uses “Dolls“, constructs, intelligent, aware, and enslaved. There is a Master of Records. Kordas will name the three Dolls assigned to him Star, Rose, and Clover. Feather is the Doll sent with the barge. Scullen and Scont are some of the jailed dissidents. The Beast is an Earth Elemental.

Before there was an emperor, there was a High King wearing the Wolf Crown who worked to protect his people from the Mage-Storms. He then became emperor. The Aetherial Plane is lighter and the Abyssal Plane is heavier, so the magic waves didn’t affect them. Velgarth is the planet they all live on — the Material Plane. Vrondi are harmless little Air Elementals.

On the other side
Brandywine and Oakton are settlers the escapees come across. People are warning the newcomers of the Pelagirs. Aylar helps Squire Lesley settle.

The Cover and Title

The cover is rich in color starting with the pinks, oranges, and yellows of the sunset behind the purple lands. In the mid-ground is a stable boy in a blue tabard with a flying white horse on it and wearing a gray cowboy-style hat. He’s holding the reins of one of Valdemar’s famous Valdemar Golds, the head of which shows behind the lounging Duke/Baron of Valdemar, his long, curling black hair above a white ruff with more ruffles peeking from his coat sleeves, is in a golden vest with a strap of gold bearing his mark — that flying white horse on a blue background. Over the vest, he wears a red belt with a golden pistol thrust through it. His coat is a royal blue satin with gold figures on an emerald green background. His trousers are a brown leather. His right hand clutches a roll of documents while his left wears a green ring. I suspect he’s leaning against one of the barges.

The title is where the Duke and his people want to go, Beyond.

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