Book Review: Closer to the Heart by Mercedes Lackey

Posted November 25, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Closer to the Heart 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 Heart by Mercedes Lackey
Series: , Collegium Chronicles #7
Genres: Fantasy
Published by DAW Books on October 6, 2015
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also in this series: Closer to Home

Mags was a Herald of Valdemar. But he had once lived the brutal life of a child slave. When he was Chosen by his Companion Dallen, his young life was saved, and he slowly adjusted to being well fed, educated, and treasured as a trainee in the Herald's Collegium at Haven. Singled out by the King's Own Herald, Mags would thrive in his secret training as a spy. His unusually strong Gift—an ability to Mindspeak and Mindhear anyone, not just others who were Gifted—made him a perfect undercover agent for the king.

Sequel to Mercedes Lackey's Closer to Home, this adventure continues Mags's journey as Valdemar's herald spy.

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, 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

Second in the Herald Spy fantasy series, the seventh in the Collegium Chronicles, and both are within the overall Valdemar series. These two particular subseries revolve around Mags; Collegium Chronicles is about Mags’ early life and learning while the Herald Spy is Mags moving into his adult position. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Valdemar books on my website.

My Take

In many respects, Closer to the Heart is more funny than anything else with the various training plans, the kirball games, Jorthun’s undercover training, Tuck’s inventions and how they’re put to use, and the worrying over the wedding. The new ideas Mags and Amily have are bearing fruit and provides Lackey with an easy way to insert a new central character, Lady Dia’s husband. He will prove to be most useful.

The greater, overt conflict for Closer to the Heart is the underhanded weapons selling. The overt minor conflict is Mags and Amily’s wedding, but while Lackey plays it up about the couple anxious to get married, she doesn’t get around to explaining why they’re so anxious. Another moral conflict within the story is excess, that of too much food when people are going hungry and that of mine owners abusing their employees to death.

The best of Closer to the Heart is all the learning and new experiences for everyone. I adore what Tuck has accomplished with his “shed” and the bits an’ bobs he makes. Sigh, I do like my gadgets, lol. And I love the ease with which Jorthun makes plans to keep Tuck safe. Coot will learn more about fitting in. Mags’ plans for the street kids with Aunt Mindy are bearing fruit, and he’s added a new protégé in Tuck with his minder, Linden. Nor is Amily sitting still. Between incorporating all those years of observing people with her political acumen — I enjoyed how she puts young Dalten down! — she’s creating a Queen’s Handmaidens, a training school for women without means, teaching them how to be lady’s maids. Another set of spies!

Both Mags and Amily also get a new perspective on what they thought they knew so well. Mags discovers that not all gem mine owners are alike while learning something about the mine owner’s side of the business. He also sees what it’s like being a kirball rider who can’t use his influence. Amily’s lessons in roof-running with Renn causes her to see the children in a whole new light. Nor is her respect for the children her only revelation as her Gift enables her to hear what Tuck is thinking, and Amily must do another about-face when she discovers how smart he is.

“‘Oh!’ said Coot, … ‘Then it’s ‘xactly like pickin’ pockets!'”

Even though the public wedding will be a political ploy to send a variety of statements to the public and neighboring countries, the wedding vows were beautiful:

“Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.”

There is more and well worth the read.

On the negative side, it seems even the heavenly Haven has its issues, especially with women’s rights. And the rumors of war cause Rolan and others to come up with too many very unpalatable ways of hobbling Valdemar.

The Story

It’ll be a combined effort from a kirball player in hiding, Nikolas’ mentor in spycraft, and Amily and Dia’s newest student in the Queen’s Handmaidens “School of Spycraft” as they go undercover in Valdemar to discover who is supplying the rebels.

The Characters

Mags, a.k.a., Master Harkon (the nephew of “Willy, the Weasel), is a Herald of Valdemar and living with Amily, the new King’s Own Herald. Amily also has a most peculiar Gift of being able to see through the eyes and ears of animals. Dallen is Mags’ Companion while Rolan appears to be the head of the Companions and always Chooses the King’s Own. Her father, Nikolas, had been the King’s Own until he died in Closer to Home, 1. A new Companion, Evory, chose Nikolas, and he is now only the king’s spymaster. Nikolas is also Willy the Weasel who runs a pawn shop in a disreputable part of Haven. The House of the Sleepgivers is Mags’ family, a once-great clan, and Mags’ cousin Bey has become its leader with his assassin wife.

Lady Dia is a very busy lady. She breeds a variety of dogs from sweet muff dogs to poison-sniffing ones to protection dogs. Miana is Dia’s trusted lady’s maid. Dia is married to Lord Steveral Jorthun whose primary residence is a huge manor house in Haven. He’s also the silent owner of three of the most honest brothels: Flora’s, the Lunar Lady, and the Doll Market. Liam is one of the house servants. Harras is Jorthun’s very knowledgeable coachman. Walther and Petras will be sent to Attlebury along with Larek, one of the grooms in the King’s stable.

The beautiful Keira Tremainet is an orphan maiden who was used and abused by family. She’ll be the first volunteer for the Queen’s Handmaidens to escape her family in House Holberk: Cousins Jerrold, Nathan Delmat, and Jerrold’s daughter, Tiayada. Lady Emaline Keteline is a nasty woman with a weak and nasty son, Brendan.

Kyril is the king of Valdemar. Crown Prince Sedric is his son and heir and married to Lydia who holds personal open Court sessions. Lydia’s uncle is Soren, a merchant. Ebon Aleric, the Lord Martial, and Lord Barethias, the Treasurer, are part of the king’s Inner Council. Lord Dalten is one of the young idiots, and one who had been very rude to Amily before she was King’s Own. Amily does get a bit nasty when she mentions Rosemiel to him!

Herald Tarlin has the Gift of Farsight and is on the Karse border. Herald Jacinth has relatives on the border in Menmellith. Herald Asher sent the news on about the “rescue” party. Herald Yvan is the Seneschal’s Herald. Herald Gerd is the Lord Martial’s Herald.

Aunty Minda is the retired cleaning lady whom Mags has set up as house mother for his collection of orphans who include Berk, Ray, Sally, Starling, Kip, Jo, Renn proves to be quite the instructor, Provo, and Coot who will go along on the undercover mission.

Bailiff Creed is in the courtroom with Judge Byron when the bullying Cobber Pellen testifies about the attack on him by the simple and huge Tuck. Linden Pardorry is Tuck’s friend who looks out for him. Judge Madows will take over. Ethan Dalliger is the new Hardorn spy with a chandlery in Haven.

Attlebury is…
…a country market town in the middle of a lot of gem mines. Darvy, Klem, Jon, Bet, and Jone are some of the inn servants. Tiercel Rolmer is one of the young sons who come a’courting. His father, Mendeth, owns several gem mines. The village where the Rolmers’ workers live is called Rolmer’s Roost. The Rolmer workers include Pol, Cook, and Maree in the kitchen.

The local kirball teams are split into Hara and Laon and the players include Meredeth Hara, Malcon Laon, Landen Wallis is the one who broke his wrist, Medoes Kiren is a team captain, Retner, Tem Hara, and Reg Killian. The ponies the young sons send Mags include Jess, Jumper, and Dust. Another Jess is the stablemaster at the inn.

Cole Pieters owned the gem mine where he used and abused young children he forced to work for him (Foundation, 1).

General Thallan has some interesting needs. Healer Cuburn is the exiled Healer who gave Bear such a hard time.

Menmellith is…
…a kingdom on Valdemar’s southern border with a child king, Klerence. Lord Aurebic Lemanthiel is the Ambassador to Valdemar who fled. Astanifandal is the king’s cousin with a grudge.

Rethewell is…
…another of Valdemar’s allies. Kleventhalaril is the ambassador’s secretary. Maranthenius is the ambassador who is leaning toward Valdemar.

The Heralds are the ultimate law enforcement in Valdemar. They are Chosen by a Companion, a supernatural horse-like being with a conscience, in a life-long bond. The King’s Own is the king’s confidante and sounding board. Brother Elban is also a Healer and tends the Shrine of Alia of the Birds. Father Gellet is a High Priest now and another friend of Mags and Amily.

The Cover and Title

The cover is gorgeous with its blue teal background of a Companion’s head and vibrant purple halter. The inset image is almost contained within the border of a shaped shield, rivets at stress points, and Mags and Amily in their fighting wedding dress. Clever and quite beautiful, lol. The author’s name is in an embossed gold while the title is much smaller and in a lighter shade of teal.

The title can be interpreted two ways. The more personal is how much Closer to the Heart are Mags and Amily; the more conflicting is General Thallan, for his plans are also close to his heart.

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