Book Review: Closer to the Chest by Mercedes Lackey

Posted November 2, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: Closer to the Chest by Mercedes Lackey

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

Closer to the Chest by Mercedes Lackey
Series: , Collegium Chronicles #8
Published by DAW Books on October 4, 2016
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also in this series: Closer to Home

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, 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

Third in The Herald Spy subseries and eighth in the Collegium Chronicles, both of which are a subseries within Lackey’s overall Valdemar universe. This subseries revolves around Mags and his Companion, Dallen.

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

My Take

As angry as the conflict made me, Closer to the Chest is a story with a warm and cozy feel for its day-in-the-life of Mags, Amily, and the royals, as Mags and Amily and the king and his son and wife endear themselves to the populace and take care of their people. Makes you wish our politicians would care half as much. I do love how thoughtful Mags is towards those who are not so well off; Amily has also learned to be more aware, and we get to learn right along with her.

I absolutely LOVE the message Lackey sends in Closer to the Chest about how wrong it is to say that women should know their place. To think they’re only good for what is considered traditional women’s work. I’m already a believer, and Lackey pokes and pokes away at how disgusting these beliefs are.

I’m confused as Lackey initially gives the impression that Teo is a collector for a moneylender, but then she has him working as a bodyguard for the goldsmith who may be the moneylender??

It’s irritating how long it takes Mags and his friends to figure out who the likely culprit is. It’s one thing to have to scrounge for evidence, and another to be so obtuse.

I had to laugh about the servants appalled that Lady Dia actually sleeps with her husband! More laughter ensued with Mags’ wish that “a plague would target only stupid people”. Yep, it’s one of my dreams as well, lol.

It’s a world with the kind of values you want your children to have — the Heralds and the king and prince who are so concerned with ensuring everyone’s well-being. And this particular story is a good one for kids to read, if only to help hammer in that this attitude towards women is wrong.

The Story

A series of seemingly unrelated attacks and burglaries against women has the town of Haven and the Court up in arms with Herald Mags and King’s Own Amily helpless to stop it.

The evildoer leaves few clues behind, and Mags and Amily must thwart whatever plans have been set in motion, and quickly — before terror turns to murder.

The Characters

Mags, a.k.a., Harkon (Willy the Weasel’s nephew), Magnus, Lord Chipman’s cousin, or Geb Lackland who infiltrates an organization, is the King’s Herald Spy gifted with Mindspeech and married (Closer to the Heart, 2) to Amily, the King’s Own Herald, who has discovered her own Gift. Dallen is Mags’ Companion; Rolan is Amily’s.

Herald Nikolas had been the King’s Own until he died (Closer to Home, 1), and Rolan’s bond passed to his daughter, Amily. He’s also “Willy the Weasel“, his undercover role as a pawnbroker who deals in information. “Willy” has a staff now: Jem, Eller, Sam, and Luke.

Kyril is the king of Valdemar; Prince Sedric is his son and heir who is married to the pregnant Lydia, Soren’s niece (Closer to Home, 1). The Housekeeper, Mrs. Pellam, is another of Nikolas’. Lady Dia breeds muff dogs, organized the Queen’s Handmaidens (a group of women spies who include Keira Tremainet, Joya, and the deceptive Keleste), and is married to Steveral, Lord Jorthun, who had been the king’s spymaster and Nikolas’ mentor. Tuck is/was Dia’s protégé and brilliant with his hands. Nils is one of Dia’s trainers. Miana is her maid. Violetta appeared in Closer to Home, 1.

The Collegium are…
…three schools where children are trained in becoming Heralds, Bards, or Healers. The deans include Caelen (Heralds), Melita “Lita” (Bards); and, Devin (Healers). Other Heralds include Pip who has just returned from a circuit; Jakyr is the one who discovered Mags in Foundation; Willowby is permanently assigned to the Haven court system; and, Kerit‘s gift is psychometry. Lena Marchand Tyrall is a Master Bard (her father, Bard Marchand, met his fate in Changes, 3); she’s married to Bear Tyrall, an innovative Healer. The Chronicler keeps records for the Healers. Margeritte is another of the Healers.

Trainee Bards include the gifted Dani, and Sara is a Trainee Herald. The Blues are students and include children of people who live at Court or on the Hill and sponsored children including Katlie Gardener and Kaven.

Aunty Minda is the house mother for Mags’ band of runners and informers; Trey is one of them. One of the original rescues is Coot who now runs the official runner business.

Teo does debt collection for a moneylender, Mika Tarneff, and works as a bodyguard for Bren Kriss, a goldsmith (and moneylender?) in Tanner’s Quarter. I gotta wonder who Dettler is.

Lord Semel Lional (he’s one of Kyril’s New Men), his wife, Lady Tyria, and their sensible children — Hawken is the oldest, the gorgeous Helane, the brilliant Lirelle, and the ambitious Loren — come to Court, expecting to move into Lord Renolf‘s townhouse. Lord Merriman and his wife, Lady Felicity, have come to Court with their twin daughters. Duke Henley believes in his own importance. Lord Anslott doesn’t like change and doesn’t approve of women. Maegery Ereson is a tease, Lady Jemma Teal is quite clever, and Amber Larele is a flirt and poaches. Lady Harmitege moves herself and her eight chicks out of the Palace. Danver Haylie and his set are ones to beware. Lady Herra and Lady Amberly are cranky spinsters. Jared was a tutor.

Watchmen include Carter and Captains Kay March and Ned March. Flora is the madame at Flora’s and also one of Nikolas’ contacts. Cilla is the House Healer at Flora’s. The Sickle Moon is another bawdy house.

Hatchet, Dog-Billy, and Rufus are the latest bad guys from whom Mags took children. The “Poison Pen” is a nasty, vicious person whose intelligence is much too accurate and knows his or her way around much too well.

The religious groups in Haven

The Sisters of Ardana are…
…a dying religious group cheated out of their building. Mother Yllana is their abbess. They also have Abbess Reed who may be Mother Yllana?? Other sisters include the unhappy Klera Coppersmith, Aster, Loveage, Basil, Ivy, Nelie, Thoma, and Thistle who is in charge of the Scriptorium. Kyle Benson is the new carter. Meya and her husband are some of the worshippers.

The Temple of Betane of the Axe is…
…a militant order of women who work as bodyguards and fill in for the Guard as needed. The prioress is their leader. Acolyte Asha inspires hero worship and offers good advice.

Birana the Flower-Crowned concerns…
…itself with growing flowers whose High Priestess is appalled.

The Order of Saint Hitia has…
…the largest library in Haven and is devoted to scholarship.

The Temple of Sethor the Patriarch is…
…the latest religious group to come to Haven with strange beliefs. Theodor Kresh is the High Priest. Other priests include Brother Pakler, Precepts Darent and Renn Haladane (he has a twin brother, Roan; their father had been a chief priest, Taryan Haladane), and Novice Tomson.

The Heralds are the ultimate law enforcement in Valdemar. Companions are magical white “horses” with silver hooves and blue eyes who can mindspeak with the Herald to whom they bond. Companion Seraf appears to be attracted to Dallen. Kirball is a game (a sort of cross between polo and soccer) invented when Mags was still a Trainee. The Sleepgivers are a clan of assassins with Mags’ cousin, Bey, its head (Bastion, 5).

The Cover and Title

The background of the cover is warm browns with a tone-on-tone graphic of Dallen galloping across. The center is the shape of a decorative shield acting as a frame for a determined Amily holding a dagger and Mags with a tool belt and holding a hammer; they’re dressed in a subdued orange. They’re separated by a highly carved pillar in the middle with poison pen letters floating between them, one of which is pinned at the bottom of the shield frame, dripping with blood. The author’s name is in embossed silver at the top while the title is in an embossed pale gold at the bottom with the series information below it embossed in white.

Oh, yeah, this title is definitely Closer to the Chest for Mags and friends, as it affects so many people in Haven and at Court.

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