Book Review: Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey

Posted December 19, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Closer to Home by Mercedes LackeyCloser to Home by Mercedes Lackey
Series: , Collegium Chronicles, 6, Valdemar
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Published by DAW Books on October 7, 2014
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Also in this series: Tempt the Stars , Blood Trade, No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar, Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar

Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.

Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter, Amily, is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?

Also by this author: Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill, Victories, Blood Red, The House of the Four Winds, 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, Beyond

First in the Herald Spy fantasy series which continues Mags’ story from the Collegium Chronicles series, and both of which are a part of the larger, overall Valdemar series. This particular subset of the series revolves around Mags, a unique young man who will be called upon to display yet more responsible choices along with his mate-to-be, Amily.

My Take
I do adore the entire series, and I was thrilled when I heard of Closer to Home and that it carried on with Mags’ story — I’d been so depressed when I thought Lackey had ended Mags’ story…

I adore his character and the rather underhanded manner in which the Heralds make use of his skills. It’s not the sort of thing one would expect from such a respectable group of law enforcement officials, which makes it all the more fun. Yes, it’s a bit dodgy, but always with the best intentions, and Closer to Home is no exception. For Mags makes plans for a much-abused group of orphans and gives them opportunity. A fascinating process to watch as Mags set up his little group of spies and the enticements he uses to encourage them. It’s so great on so many levels.

Part of the fun in Valdemar is the relationship these Heralds have with their “horses”, their Companions in life. It’s a psychic connection that brings great benefits in so many ways.

The overt purpose in this story for Mags is to babysit Brand from House Raeylen while the king has assigned Lady Dia to distract the Chendlars and get them married off. The king wants them gone and out of Haven! Amily has her own particular tasks: learning to be the King’s Own and spying on both families. It’s also an opportunity for Lackey to decry society’s limited expectations for women. I also suspect Lackey is setting us, I mean, Mags and Amily, up for more social programs in future stories.

Hmmm, my notes are inadequate…I hate that. I think that the references Mags makes to the memories he has received from Bey are from the encounter in Redoubt, 4, when  Kan-li and Levor force that drug into him, to force him to remember. It could also have occurred in Bastion… Guess you’ll just have to read both…you lucky dogs… Hmmm, I should re-read them, get my notes right. Yeah, that’s it, I have to re-read them. Oh, yeah!!

:No one runs from anything quite like they run from change.:

Lol, Mags learns that women like a bit of spectacle, especially Amily who has always been the brown sparrow in the corner. Jak has learned a good bit on this year-long exodus as well and believes he’d be content staying close to home.

It’s an interesting case of be careful what you wish for. Amily is suddenly being treated as an adult, and it scares her. The responsibilities…she’ll have to show up to work!

A few loose threads in this one: the blackmailer — an interesting take on this; the promises Mags is making to his small band of “spies” — he must be planning on buying more houses; and, after all Sedric’s experience, he’s this clueless about questioning people? — he does give good punishment.

I don’t get why the bond that breaks between Rolan and Nikolas means that Nikolas can no longer be the King’s Own. I did adore how Mags tore into the king and his council! How very true!! Nor is the council the only one that Mags tears into, lol. Rolan has his own say as well about serving both and why it’s actually a good thing. And he does make sense.

:Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes. If you make a mistake, we’ll admit to it, own it, and then fix it.:

On the negatives, Lackey spends a lot of time going on about the Chendlar girls’ goals, the men they want to marry as well as why. An interesting tidbit on what wealthy men are looking for — beyond the heir-and-a-spare — crops up, and it makes perfect sense, and in some ways it’s as important as heirs. It all provides the opportunity for Amily and Mags to reflect on their own luck.

What are these families thinking? After that first scare the prince puts into them, I’d’a thought that would take care of it. But, oh no, there are idiots everywhere.

I do like Amily’s hidden agenda with Violette. And the ideas the ladies have for decorating their home for a party are good. Amazing what limitations can do to send your imagination soaring.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop going on. I do love Lackey’s stories. She writes a good tale and there are good values in them for kids, and this one is no exception.

The Story
Mags is returning to Haven with Amily, Jak, and Lita. And Mags knows he wants to marry Amily. So it’s a shock when he learns that he can’t. It doesn’t mean they won’t be busy working, however. Amily gets sent to the Royal Chronicler to continue her work with the Heraldic Archives while Mags is set to establish some new personas as well as revive some old ones.

Two of those personas will come in quite handy when it comes to controlling the feuding Houses.

The Characters
Mags is a Trainee at the start, but receives his Herald Whites on their return from the year of travel forced on them in Bastion, 5. His personas will include servant positions in three different households; back to Harkon as Willy the Weasel’s street-tough nephew; Magnus will be a nephew of Lord Chipman’s; and, Mags finds a number of ways he can use his personas to help those who need it. Our boy’s a multitasker. His Companion is Dallen.

Amily is his girlfriend who has discovered she does indeed have a Gift, a small one, but her own, one of Animal Mindspeech. She’s had the year to get used to not being as crippled as she had been for Bear’s treatment of her has worked. She is also the daughter of the King’s Own, Nikolas, whose Companion is Rolan. Willy the Weasel is one of Nikolas’ personas; he’s a fence/pawnbroker in a bad part of Haven. Nikolas’ new Companion will be Evory; and Mags is convinced it was Evory’s spirit who brought Nikolas back.

Prince Sedric is on duty at the Great Magistrate’s Court of Appeals in the afternoons. All Heralds have to pull a turn of duty at the Courts in turn. Lydia, Soren’s niece, has been his wife and princess for a year now. King Kyril is the ruler in Valdemar, and he’s torn over the entire King’s Own situation. The Seneschal keeps track of who is lovers with whom. Lady Dia Jorthun made an excellent match last season with Lord Jorthun of Ayersmark — the duchy of — and is now a leader in society.

Mags’ group of thieves
Aunty Minda will be the housemother. She’ll prove to be a good choice. Coot (he’ll prove to be the brightest), Grub, Flea, Ash, Jo, Silas, Bet, Detch, Sparrow, and others.

Gripper is about to become the former thiefmaster.

The feuding families
The families of Lords Kaltar and Leverance have been feuding for years, and now they’ve decided to come to Haven for the Midwinter Court.

House Raeylen
Lord Kaltar wants a wife for his only son, Brand. Some of his cousins include Rafe, Sevast, and Byll.

House Chendlar
Lord and Lady Leverance are determined to find husbands, at least, for their daughters: Brigette, the oldest, and Aleniel, the middle daughter. Both daughters are quite pragmatic about their goals. It’s the youngest and most romantic, Violetta, to whom Dia gives one of her warming-spaniels, Star. It also introduces a spy into the Leverance household. Lion is Lord Leverance’s ancient mastiff. Nurse is another source of romantic notions for Violetta. Kenteth is a cousin who’s pursuing Betrice. Cousin Talbot is another, very hotheaded cousin who’s gotten above himself. Lord Peramir has signed a contract to marry Aleniel, but he’ll accept Violetta.

Gallivanting about Haven
Flora’s is a very nice whorehouse, not too expensive, and the madame, Flora, and one of her girls, Lissande, are two of Nikolas’ spies. Lelage is the very exclusive whore that Brand rhapsodizes on about. Marster Jon was at the first pub where the Raeylen guards were puffing off. The witnesses from the Bird in Hand include a feisty young waitress and the innkeeper. Guildmaster Ambrose has sickness in his house; his wife, Saira, will accept Lady Leverance’s bargain.

Jakyr is an older Herald and has been Mags’ mentor. Bard Melita “Lita” had been the Dean of Bardic Collegium, the head of the Bardic Circle; she took the year off to travel with Jak, Mags, and Amily.

Rendall is one of the Trainees who welcomes Mags and Amily back. Young Robin is the new Kirball champion and better than Mags. Daymon is a Healer who takes Amily to Elked who specializes in learning as much as he can about all the Gifts.

Companions look like white horses but are so much more. They communicate telepathically with a human they Choose and with whom they are bonded for life. Next to the King, Heralds are the highest law enforcement in Valdemar. A warming-spaniel is teeny and trained to lie still in a lady’s muff to warm her hands or lay across her feet to keep them warm. Heck, I could use one now; my cats refuse to do it.

Bey is the heir to the House of the Sleepgivers, a once-great clan and Mags’ original family, making Bey Mags’ cousin whom he encountered in Bastion.

Catching Up:
Bear and Lena have a great gig at Baron Burns with Lena as his Court Bard.

The Cover
The cover is perfect with its references and metaphors for the story within. It’s all about masks and family. The different masks that people must wear for the different aspects of their lives, for those aspects they wish to hide. The shield-shaped inset, an inset medievalist border with evenly spaced rivets, focuses on Mags in his Herald Whites against a backdrop of a crowded Haven at night when the action happens, is a representation of family, lineage…and one hopes, of honor. The background is lilac with an enlarged yet faded image of Dallen rearing up and screaming.

The title is a betrayal, for it’s Closer to Home than anyone could have guessed.

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


2 responses to “Book Review: Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey

Leave a Reply