Book Review: Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

Posted August 25, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Magic’s Pawn 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.

Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey
Genres: Fantasy
Published by DAW on June 6, 1989
Pages: 352
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 Promise, The Serpent's Shadow, The Oathbound, The White Gryphon, The Silver Gryphon, Beyond

First in the Last Herald-Mage fantasy series for early teens (fourth in the overall Valdemar universe) and revolving around Vanyel.

Magic’s Pawn was nominated for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Science Fiction/Fantasy in 1990.

Yes, the Herald-Mage Trilogy does include gay male couples, but the only negative about it is the prejudice the Valdemar couple face. There is nothing sexually overt except for the boys bonding emotionally and mentally.

My Take

Whoa, this family is to be avoided! A stubborn, brutal father, a vicious armsmaster, and a totally self-absorbed, selfish (it needs saying twice) mother, and a pack of kids that need true discipline, not vicious beatings.

I sure can’t blame Vanyel from pulling back. It’s not what he should do, but if he wants to survive, he has to. He does get a shock when he gets to Haven. He’d been outstanding at home in scholastics. In Haven he learns how much he doesn’t know. He also takes quite a while to grow up, even as he battles the “lessons” he learned from his family. For all his smarts, he doesn’t much understand people or the world, as we learn from from third person protagonist point-of-view from Van’s perspective.

One of the things I adore about the Valdemar series is how supportive and tolerant most of the Heralds and the rulers are. There’s always a lesson in each story, and it’s quite the cozy read.

That said, Savil and many others at Court have issues with their perception of Vanyel, and he isn’t helping matters at all. There’s quite a bit of whining about Van, and it takes Tylendel to dig into what’s wrong. ‘Lendel’s Companion, Gala, is a crack-up. She’s so mischievous, and when she’s angry, oh boy. Be sure to have a box of tissues handy.

That visit with the Hawkbrothers was fascinating in their viewpoints, tolerance, and lifestyle, which ties into the story’s theme. Being gay is not wrong, and there is a lot of prejudice that Vanyel and Tylendel have to battle.

Magic’s Pawn is an annoying combination of whiny self-focused teenage angst that takes up too much time, plotting, and action.

The Story

Young Vanyel is different from his siblings, uninterested in his father’s demands, and spoiled by his mother.

All of which results in him being exiled to Haven for his aunt to turn into a “real man”.

The Characters

Vanyel Ashkevron is a loner, much petted by his mother for his looks and skill on the lute. Star is his horse. Yfandes is a Companion.

The Ashkevrons of Forst Reach
The stubborn, single-minded Lord Withen Ashkevron is Vanyel’s father, and father to Lissa who’s being fostered out and is Van’s only ally; Mekea, who is just like their father; Kerle?; Heforth is the youngest brother; Sandar?; Merthin?; and, Jyllian. The self-obsessed Lady Treesa Ileana Brendywhin-Ashkevron is Vanyel’s mother. The scheming Melenna is Lady Treesa’s maid. Radevel Ashkevron and Laurence are cousins. Aunt Serina is pregnant and staying at Forst Reach with her Healer. Their grandfather, Joserlin Ashkevron, had some weird home decor ideas. Joserlin Corveau, a fosterling, is slow to speak but quite observant. Ratha is one of the girls fostered with Treesa.

The brutal, bullying armsmaster is Jervis. Father Leren is a rigid, judgmental priest. Garth and Erek are the “guards” to ensure Van gets to Haven.

Valdemar is . . .
. . . the country of which Elspeth is queen. Haven is the capital of the country. The Companions only look like horses. They communicate psychically with their Chosen, the human with whom they choose to bond. The Heraldic Circle consists of the Queen’s Own, Seneschal’s Herald, Lord Marshall’s Herald, Savil as the speaker for the Heralds with trainees, the speaker for the Heralds on circuit, the Queen, and the Heir.

Aunt Savil is a Herald-Mage whom Withen intends to make Vanyel into a “man”. Kellan is her Companion. She’s also a Wingsister to the Hawkbrothers. Savil keeps saying she doesn’t handle people well. Margret is her maid. She has three students; Tylendel “‘Lendel” Frelennye, a Herald-Mage Trainee with three gifts, and Donni and Mardic (his Companion is Fortin) — they’re lifebonded. Tylendel is gay, shay’a’chern and his family is in a stupid feud. Other Heralds include Jaysen “Jays” (his Companion is Felar) and Tantras (who are both good friends of Savil’s), Shallan, Lancir is the Queen’s Own and Taver is his Companion, and Rolf. Gala is Tylendel’s Companion. Healer Andrel “Andi” is Savil’s very good friend. Delian is another Companion.

Shanse, a minstrel, said Vanyel was good. Redl, Tashi, Reva, Nevis, Kertire, Wendi, and Liers are students in Haven. Kayla is a very good weaponsmaster. Duke Oden is one of Kayla’s instructors as well as the Lord-Marshall’s second-in-command. Bards Chadran and Breda have unwelcome news.

The Frelennye are . . .
. . . led by Staven, who is Tylendel’s twin with whom he shares a bond.

The Lesharas have . . .
. . .a huge, stupid feud going with the Frelennye. Evan Leshara is spreading poison at Court. Wester is Evan’s cousin.

Brenden Keep
Trevor Corey trains sword-ladies, including Lissa.

Veth Krethen. Herald Seldasen wrote a book on tactics. Istal had been Van’s tutor?? Corveau was previously fostered by Lord Kendrick and trained by a real armsmaster, Master Orser. Old Lady Cedrys at Briary Holding forced her oldest, Liaven, to study. King Tavist had been the son of Queen Terilee and the father of Queen Leisha. Bardic Talents include the Gift, the Skill, and the Creativity. The Red Nose Inn is outside the west wall of Haven.

The Hawkbrothers
Starwind (a k’Treva Speaker) and Moondance (formerly Tallo) k’Treva are both Adepts and life partners. More Adepts include Sunsong, Brightwind, Stormwing, Rainstar, and Fireflight who are all unavailable for their next adventure. The hertasi are sentient animals who serve the Tayledras. The Mage-Clans of the Tayledras guard the Pelagirs and the changelings within while their cousins, the Shin’a’in, guard the Dhorisha Plains.

Menfree, Magnus, Kern, Tansy, grandfather, Phellip, Jo, and Meagan are a family of farmers at Garthhold, who were attacked and from whom Vanyel finally understands what Tylendel had tried to tell him. Magelord Grenvis holds the rights to their land. Gallen is the headman of Covia; Reva is his wife. Veth is their half-grown son.

Wyrsa are monsters out of the Pelagirs. Leareth is Darkness. Krebain is a warped mage.

The Cover and Title

The cover is split into three vertical panels with the central panel the widest and showcasing a dark, turbulent, lightning-filled sky as Vanyel, in a lilac and gold cloak and a white shirt with blousy sleeves banded in gold, hugs the white Companion Fandes’ neck. She has her head turned to look back. The central panel is separated from the two outer panels by a thickish lilac border, which is also used for the title. The background of the outer panels is black and grey, representing the nightmares with which Vanyel is plagued. In the central panel, the author’s name is at the top in white. Two pale gray horizontal rules separate the series info (in pale gray) from the name and the title.

The title is all about Vanyel, for he is Magic’s Pawn.

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