Book Review: Exile’s Honor by Mercedes Lackey

Posted March 28, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Book Review: Exile’s Honor 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.

Exile's Honor by Mercedes Lackey
Genres: Fantasy
Published by DAW on October 7, 2003
Pages: 432
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, Beyond, 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, The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley, Owlflight, Exile’s Valor

First in the Exile Duology subseries within the Valdemar fantasy universe (and taking place in 1355 AF) revolving around Alberich, a captain in the Karsite army. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Valdemar books on my website.

My Take

“That was the way of things, in the armies of Karse. You rose by watching your back, and (if the occasion arose) sticking careful knives into the backs of your less-cautious fellow . . .”

Poor Alberich. His whole life he’s been told how demon-ridden Valdemar is, and yet his predicament is mostly the fault of his own people. He’s caught between a rock and a hard place, well, to be honest, so are Kantor and Talamir. The first for their condemnation and the second for riding roughshod over Alberich’s choices.

Exile’s Honor is primarily a tug of war between Alberich’s loyalty to his homeland versus its corruption. He must determine if Valdemar is speaking the truth, about so many, many things. It’s a hard case, as Alberich’s whole life has been the condemnation of those Demon-Riders and their Hellhorses. Alberich has revelation after revelation, not least of which is his realizing that even honor needs a solid base on which to stand. Ooh, I do like that solution Kantor comes up with to keep Alberich’s honor and yet help Valdemar. A very clever idea.

Lackey uses third person global subjective point-of-view primarily from the perspective of Alberich with some few perspectives provided by others such as Selenay, Talamir, and Dethor. Still the great majority of what we learn is through Alberich.

There’s also the prejudice Alberich as a Karsite faces in Valdemar with a variety of people stepping in to help. The audacious Selenay has some interesting suggestions, lol. Father Henrick and Gerichen take the more humane approach to the concept of “witch-powers”. Thank god. As for the Heralds’ thoughts on settling Alberich in, they’re not caught up in red tape! They’re quite realistic and intent on reassuring Alberich that his choices will not be taken from him. Again.

More Valdemaran practicality shows in those long internships where a particular Herald-trainee’s circumstances require something different from the usual. More practicality was explained when Selenay spoke of the fountains and statues that have additional requirements.

It’s all hypocrisy in Karse. If a child is found with useful powers, he’s yanked into the Temple for training; if the child has no useful powers or is too old, he’s put in the Fire to be Cleansed. It’s a horrid country, and at the end, Karse is hoist by its own petard, lol.

I’m rather confused about Alberich thinking his father was mad and others saying it might have been a conspiracy amongst his wife’s people and yet Lackey states that Alberich’s mother is a tavern wench and Alberich is a bastard. More confusion arises with that back history of Jasker having a family. Outside of Valdemar?? I thought Companions were only born in Valdemar?

I love Lackey’s description of Alberich’s physicality as a warrior. It adds such a gleeful tone for those older trainees Dethor is concerned about, who are about to get their comeuppance with this weaponsmaster-trainee! Fun, fun, fun!

The true issue between Valdemar and Karse is freedom to choose with a busy set of stories within the story that will keep you turning those pages. That will set your heart afire, your lips to laughing, and your eyes to weeping.

Be sure to have a box of tissues for the end, although your heart will sing with the children rescued and Alberich’s realization that friends can become family.

The Story

Loyal to Karse, Alberich must still hide his gifts until caught out by a Voice. Thanks to Silver, Alberich survives only to waken in Haven. In enemy hands.

Hands that need a good spy to insert into Karse. If only Alberich’s honor would allow him to go, unless . . . Unless a MindHealer can get into someone’s head . . .

There is so much that Alberich can do, and he does love a good fight.

The Characters

Captain Alberich, a bastard son of a tavern wench, was chosen by a Voice at age 13. A dangerous choice for Alberich has a witch-power. “Aarak Benshane” is one of Alberich’s many alter egos. “Silver“, a.k.a. Kantor, is a stallion gifted to Alberich by the Voice of Vkandis Sunlord as replacement for Alberich’s faithful old Smoke.

Captain Anberg is the man Alberich replaces. Leftenants Herdahl and Klaus hate Alberich (for being promoted ahead of them).

Karse is . . .

. . . the enemy of Valdemar with Ortrech as king. Karsites worship Vkandis Sunlord with the Son of the Sun the leader of their religion. The Sunpriests are their priests with the Voices the highest ranking and usually possessing mage-gifts. Other religious levels include Red Robes, Archpriests, and Hierophants. Karsite priests refer to the Valdemaran Heralds as Demon-Riders.

Berthold had been the Weaponsmaster to the youngest boys. Aksel Tarselein had been one of Berthold’s students and is now the Weaponsmaster to the Sunsguard Cadets. Alberich’s mentor in childhood, Father Kentroch, is a teacher and protector.


Sendar is the king (he is slaughtered at the end in battle); Lorenil is Sendar’s Companion. Selenay is his daughter and heir with a touch of empathy with Caryo as her Companion. Crance is Selenay’s secretary. Haven is the capital. The Home Farms supply the Collegium while the Royal Farm supplies the Palace. The Guard is Valdemar’s own standing army of full-time soldiers.

The Heralds are . . .
. . . the ultimate law enforcement in Valdemar. They are Chosen by a Companion, a supernatural gift of a white horse-like being with a conscience, in a life-long bond and communicate telepathically. The King’s Own is the king’s confidante and sounding board. Rolan is a new Grove-Born Companion (he’ll replace Taver with Talamir).

King’s Own Herald Talamir and his Companion, Taver, Herald Aren, and the Lord Marshal’s Herald Joyeaus were Alberich’s rescuers. Selenay’s Six will include Heralds Karen and Ylsa; City Guards Locasti Perken, Berda Lunge, and Haydee Dellas; and, Palace Guardswoman Lotte. The King’s Guard will include Healer Crathach has a MindHealing gift and is good with knives, Talamir, and Jadus. Herald Laika disguised herself as a washerwoman to spy in Karse. Herald Kulen.

Dethor is the Weaponsmaster for the Collegium; before he was Chosen, he’d spied for the Lord Marshal. Pashen is his Companion. Bard-turned-Herald Jadus, a deadly swordsman, is chosen to introduce Alberich around. Herald Elcarth is quite sharp and standing in for the Dean of the Collegium; he teaches history. Kimel, the head of His Majesty’s Guard, wants a challenging opponent. Jasker is a hate-filled Companion who led others. Volunteers include Orven, a herdsman; a tinker; Herald Laika disguised as a washerwoman; and, the young Herald Wethes. Herald Mirilin has sessions in the Court of Justice. Estan is her Companion. Bard Lellian is in charge of the funeral procession.

Tammas and Jahan (their Companions are Trevor and Mik) are Herald-trainees who think they’re all that. Theela is a girl Herald-trainee. The middle-aged Trainee Myste, a former sedentary law clerk, is hopeless at weaponry but does know when someone is telling the truth. Aleirian is her Companion. Students are distinguished by the color of their uniforms: regular students are in pale blue, Bardic-trainees wear brick, and Healer-trainees are in pale green. Lieutenant Chorran, Koan, and Nort Halfden are with the Valdemaran army on the border. Ashkevron Manor has sent what fighting horses they can (The Last Herald mage subseries).

Father Henrick and his assistant, Acolyte “Geri” Gerichen, serve the Sunlord in Haven, calling their building the Temple of the Lord of Light. Patriarch Pellion d’Genrayes will represent all the religions of Haven.

Lord Wordercan wants to put in a tannery. The Blue Boar is a tavern. The Companion’s Bell is a tavern where Heralds tend to hang out (it’s also where Alberich can change into one of his personas). Lord Realard was delivered back to his father. Lord Gartheser is on the Council and quite nasty about Alberich. Lord Orthallen, an old playfellow of Sendar’s, is part of Gartheser’s group and has an eye to the main chance. Lord Tholinar and Lady Donrevy also have Council seats.

Tedrel mercenaries are . . .
. . . a people who lost their war and went into exile. They’re not part of any Guild and are unreliable and cruel. Kantis is the young boy who takes charge of the children.

The King of Rethwellan is rumored to have a connection with the Shin’a’in. Menmellith had once been part of Karse, long, long, long ago. Baron Valdemar had founded the country. Elspeth the Peace-maker ruled in the past and had a very good notion about statues being practical, lol. The Holderkin are a group, primarily located along the Valdemaran border, with singular beliefs who take care to protect themselves with fortresses and supplies. Herald Pol had been Lavan Firestorm’s mentor (Brightly Burning) while Theran had been king.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a contrast with the cheery soft yellow textured wall of the first vertical two-thirds on the left with a heater shield in a striated gradation of orange and brown with a dark brown border with the all-white Kantor rearing up through the shield “window”. The author’s name in burgundy is above the shield. The title, in black, is below the shield. Below that, in dark brown, is the overall series information. The right third of the cover is an interior shot of a stone wall with a Sunlord stained glass window and the dark-haired Alberich standing in front of it, wearing a short-sleeved gray tunic with a black vest and holding a sword in his right hand. A rack of swords is in front of him.

The title is what Alberich holds most dear, his Exile’s Honor.

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One response to “Book Review: Exile’s Honor by Mercedes Lackey

  1. Nice review! I’m quite fond of this one. Alberich is one of my favorite characters in the whole Valdemar series.

    Re your confusion about Jasker… Have you read the Mage Storms trilogy yet? I don’t want to let any cats out of bags, so let’s just say that there is a bit more to Companions than the Heralds are aware of, in terms of their abilities and their personal histories. At some point in that trilogy, you’ll come across what Companions are; it explains Jasker’s past as well as other minor puzzles or hints in other books.

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