Book Review: Pathways by Mercedes Lackey

May 22, 2020 Book Reviews 0

Book Review: Pathways 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.

Pathways by Mercedes Lackey, Cody Martin
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Published by DAW Books on December 5, 2017
Pages: 3768
Format: eBook
Source: the library

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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, The Case of the Spellbound Child

Twelfth in the Tales of Valdemar short stories series for middle-grade readers with 21 short stories revolving around Mercedes Lackey’s fantastical world of the Heralds of Valdemar, the kingdom’s ancient order of protectors drawn from across the land.

The Series

“Reborn” (Reincarnation, 2)
“Unexpected Consequences” (Lady Cera of Sandbriar, 2)
“Patterns” (Deira the Weaver, 2)
“Out of the Pelagiris” (Nwah the Kyree, 2)
“Discovery” (Perran, 2)
“An Ostentation of Peacocks” (Lena, 2)
“Cobblestones” (Dann Family of Haven, 8)
“Cloud and Sparrow” (Sparrow and Brock, 2)
“Bootknife” (Wil and Leila, ??)

The Stories

Brigid Collins’ “Silent Storms”…

…made me work to understand what the issue was, which took away from my enjoyment of it.

Herald Selte has a gift for Weather and is mute. Her Companion is Cerilka. She’s laden with a talkative trainee with a gift for peacekeeping, Marli, whose Companion is Taren. Marli’s gifts are for Farsight and Fetching. The Collegium is where Heralds, Healers, and Bards receiving their education.

Kristin Schwengel’s “Traded Places”…

…was a bit confusing at the start. Using Capin for someone’s name did NOT help. Why would the duke not be used to a large household? It’s a cute enough story, and I enjoyed the LGBT angle but Schwengel needed more time to develop this to make it believable.

Valia, a.k.a., Val Shabony and Lia, is a young lady of the Fifty of Mornedealth who lives for action who is off to be betrothed. Lords Sebasten “Seb” and Rall are Valia’s brothers. Capin Jensdar is the head of Valia’s security team. Duke Orrin is the local ruler for the city of Llyrida. Cousin Agadrew has made a very pointed bequest. Gevin is a serving lad in the duke’s household. Master Sarcen is an innkeeper of the Blue Gryphon in Llyrida. Herald-Envoy Ardra‘s strange kind of Foresight caused her to come with her Companion Feste.

Jennifer Brozek’s “Reborn”…

…embraces reincarnation as well as a current-day rescue.

Lia is an unchosen (as yet) Companion who dreams of her Chosen. Kalin is a fellow Companion, who doesn’t believe her. Herald Sarah and her Companion, Tavin, are the closest to Lia. Nara is the Companion Lia impersonates. Master Bard Stefan tells tales. Owen is taken hostage by bandits: Ernst, Pitor, and Dev. Arvin is a guard and Owen’s friend; his other guards are Nicholas and Camlin. Edric is another guard. Lord Briden is Owen’s uncle to whom he is going for fosterage. Sorcha had been Lia’s Companion in a previous life when Lia had been Milla. Sarah’s Tavin had been Torin. It’s been 25 years since Herald-Mage Vanyel‘s death.

Their first story had been told in No True Way: “Written in the Wind”.

Janny Wurts’ “The Girl Who Rejected the Ordinary”…

…finds Kaysa alternating between worry over her disability and her belief that something isn’t right. I gotta say these Heralds don’t seem to be all that competent with their dismissal of the dangers of the Pelagiris.

Kaysa is a blind woman from Ropewynd who rescued Lark, the Companion of Herald Tarron. The other Heralds include Arif, Lara, and Jess. The Pelagiris Forest is notorious for its mutants and strange Change-Beasts.

Elizabeth A. Vaughan’s “Unexpected Consequences”…

…is a sweet follow-on tale of a merchant’s daughter who took on the challenge of helping her late husband’s estate to survive. It’s but a peek-in, but I do love the protagonist.

Lady Cera, a widow, has been confirmed as the Lady of Sandbriar. Alena is her handmaiden. Athelnor is her steward and cousin to the Old Lord; Marga is his wife. Gareth is their grandson, eager for adventure. Headman Ondon isn’t good with numbers. Ager is a herdsman who seems to have attracted Alena’s eye. Old Meroth is Cera’s shepherd. Young Meroth is learning from him. Selenay is queen of Valdemar. Emerson is the second son of Lord Cition, who has been sent to “get in first”; he’s become their resident tapestry weaver. Lord Withen is the second son of Lord Ashkevron of Forst Reach, who’s bringing a herd of chirras for Cera. Wild kandace is a valued herb.

Phaedra Weldon’s “A Herald’s Duty”…

…is a complicated story filled with anger, confused help, and a major lack of charity that causes great tragedy.

Herald Emil Ainsworth is the nation’s bard; Nythil is his Companion. Healer Phallon is a friend of Emil’s son, Herald Ferris. Syr is Ferris’ Companion. Emil’s father, Jasson Ainsworth, had been a master at crafting instruments. Lisle is a city. The Wayward Son inn is run by Shea Merridens. Jenita is Shea’s daughter who died. Drum is an elderly man, a half-blind healer. Refugees from Menmellith of Karse include Halided, a father with a gift for Fetching, and Tikal.

Dayle A. Dermatis’ “Woven Threads of Love and Honor”…

…finds a widow who’s gift for Empathy burst out six months ago. A gift that comes in very handy when a Trainee is caught looking at a test’s answers. It’s the truth that emerges that makes my blood boil.

Herald Trainee Syrriah is old for her being Chosen by her Companion Cefylla. When her husband, Brant, died, she stepped down from running Traynemarch Reach but still keeps her hand in at weaving. Natalli is Syrriah’s daughter; Keliana, a potential Artificer, is Natalli’s friend. Benlan is Syrriah’s son and both children are Herald-Trainees as are Syrrirah’s other two children, one of whom is Riann, a talented artist and Herald currently riding circuit. Keysa is Keliana’s younger sister. Dean Elcarth is in charge of the Collegium, the school for Trainees.

Diana L. Paxson’s “Patterns”…

…was a fun tale of rescue, bigotry, and spellcasting to protect the city. It involves two families, one had been refugees and the second are refugees who are helped who, in turn, help their new city.

Deira is a widow and master weaver who now lives in Haven, the capital city of the country of Valdemar (No True Way: “Weavings”). Her daughter, Selaine, is attending the Healer’s Collegium and has a gift for Fetching. More Trainees and friends of Selaine include Donni, Lisandra (a gift of Psychometry), Garvin, and Caren. Sendar and Selenay are the king and queen of Valdemar. Affi is a little boy, a refugee from near Cebu Pass along with his Mata and Vata, Jilander Thornsson, a shepherd, and his wife, Shireie, a weaver. Vkandis is the god worshipped in Karse. The Sunpriests of Karse have hired Tedrel mercenaries to weaken Valdemar. The battles are known as the Tedrel Wars. Vanyel Ashkevron was the last Herald-Mage.

Ron Collins’ “Out of the Pelagiris”…

…finds Nwah conflicted over her own hypocrisy when it comes to the differences in mating between kyree and human and must explore her dislike of her magic. It’s a cute enough story with good tension and drama, but rather lame. When does a commander outrank a sergeant-at-arms?

Nwah is a kyree who lost her first pair-mate, Rayn, in No True Way: “Nwah”. Then Kade with his Healing Gift came into her life. Tau is the capital city of Oris. Winnie, the sergeant-at-arms’ daughter, is one of the girls bargaining in Tau’s marketplace, and she wants to be a Healer. Hivenswirth and Lag are local, obnoxious guards. Castigan is their leader, the sergeant-at-arms. Commander Lincecum Hale is the sergeant’s second-in-command who is sick. The Pelagiris is a forest full of strange, dangerous creatures.

Dylan Birtolo’s “Trust Your Instincts”…

…is one big betrayal, well, one after another. And incredibly sad… It was really annoying as there’s no reveal as to why this happens.

Fayne Jadrevalyn, a Journeyman, is a distant relative of the new queen of Rethwellan, Lethonel Jadrevalyn. The Sword That Sings chooses the new Rethwellan leader. Jhaeros is Fayne’s friend and works in the stables.

Nancy Asire’s “Discovery”…

…finds us in a court case in Zallow’s Fork in Karse where the judge must determine the guilt or innocence of two children. I do love this story, if only because justice is sought.

Perran is a traveling judge out of Sunhame and keeper of the laws of Vkandis, the Son of the Sun. Levran is his assistant. Timar is one of Perran’s guards. Brock is a bully of a prominent merchant family whose mother, Mistress Caromina, thinks he can do no wrong. Davan is one of her servants. Jerret is a young boy who suffered a broken leg and cares about a mangy orange cat. Hannah is his mother and a widow; Reyard had been her husband. Fora is the sister of a friend of Jerret’s.

Elisabeth Waters’ “An Ostentation of Peacocks”…

…finds poor Lena forced to appear more often at court where she encounters Jasper who wants his dogs back…now that his mother is entering a convent. I did enjoy No True Way: “A Wake of Vultures”, and I like finding out how that story ends. Of course, it’s a bit convoluted what with the circus and peacocks, but I did enjoy Meri entering into the spirit of things.

Lady Magdalena “Lena” is a ward of the king with a gift of Animal Mindspeech but lives at the temple of Thenoth, Lord of the Beasts. Lord Kristion is the late lord; his son, Jasper, has arrived at court with Lord Teren who accidentally shot Kristion. Teren was named joint guardian with Lady Kristion of Jasper. It’s Jasper’s dogs that Lena rescued in No True Way: “A Wake of Vultures”. Clyton is a Companion of one of Lena’s favorite Heralds, Samira, and has recommended that Meri, a Companion without a Chosen, volunteer to help Lena. Bram‘s father sent the king peacocks as a gift. Sofia is one of the flyers, a trapeze artist, with the circus. Papa is Sofia’s father. Herald Trainee Amal is Samira’s younger sister. Kyra is Amal’s Companion. Robin is a Chosen of Dathus who had grown up with traveling players. He was also in No True Way: “A Wake of Vultures”.

Fiona Patton’s “Cobblestones”…

…is politics and who’s gonna pay. It’s a tale of who knows who and what the history is behind street repair and who pays for it, all set against the Dann family and their dynamics.

Haven is the capital city of Valdemar. Sergeant Hektor Dann is with the Haven City Watch. Hektor has two-month-old twin sons: Edzel “Eddie” and Ronald. Ismy is Hektor’s wife. Hektor’s siblings include Jakon, Raik, Corporal Aiden, Kassiath “Kassie” is his little sister who cares for pigeons and works at the Watch House as a messenger, and Paddy is a runner for the Watch. Egan, Leila, and his twin sons, Thomar and Peston, are Aiden’s kids. Edzel is Ismy’s father and a master smith who runs an Iron Shop. Ismy’s brother Tay is married to Trisha, and they have two children, Zoe and new baby Joanna “Jo-Jo”. Rosie is Paddy’s girl. Master Aubrin is Kassie’s boss. Sammy is the Watch House cat.

The street in front of Benj Grandstil‘s shop has a nasty pothole. Willans is another merchant. Daedrus is an Artificer. Sergeant Jones is part of Hektor’s manor. The Stonemason’s Guild is supposed to appoint the street surveyors who repair the streets. Past surveyors included Dray Hennon, a foreigner who drowned; Simon Winsel died of a fit; and, Barrin and Tam, Linton’s cousins, are a pair of drunks but good with stone. Tam married Gerda, Brother Andel’s youngest sister. They have two children, thirteen-year-old Rasha, and Leon. Thenoth is a god of animals with a temple where Petrin works. Andel is a brother here.

Louisa Swann’s “Boggles and Spies”…

…finds a young boy who empathizes too strongly with the fish to be able to eat them. In this tale, he’ll have to conquer his fears and perform a desperate rescue that’ll save him from being a fisherman.

Petril is eight years old with a rich fantasy life and a gift for Animal Speech who lives on the shore of Lake Evendim. Ani is Petril’s oldest sister, and they have six older brothers — Jem and Loni are still in diapers. Tinnie is a five-year-old sister. Fritz is an old carter.

Anthea Sharp’s “The Hidden Gift”…

…finds poor Tarek having to go back to the beginning of his schooling…since his dratted gift appeared so late. It means rearranging his whole life…and giving him the empathy to understand what Lyssa is going through and how desperate she is to make her family happy.

Tarek Strand is a Healer Trainee whose gift finally appeared. Lord Strand is his very hard father. Lyssa Varcourt is a fellow student, the youngest of the First-Year Trainees and is from a family of Healers. Her aunt is the best Healer in Haven. Lady Varcourt is her pushy mother. Master Adrun is one of the Healer instructors. Herald Bard Shandara Tem has a gift of Empathy for talking to people.

D Shull’s “Secrets and Truths”…

…is a tale about loyalty, to family, to friends. I THINK it’s also a very disguised story about being different, as in gay or transgender. I do wish Shull had committed to his story and laid it out.

The Avelard Family Traveling Show is wintering in the Tipsy Gryphon. Its “members” are family now and include Ella and Hallen, who concern themselves with the accounts; Ronnet, who is the strongman; Zanner, a former Holderkin, is a juggler who’s not very reliable; Hesby; Wenn; Finn; Conna; and, Lisbet, who is the newest “family member” and mends and adds embellishments to the costumes.

Healer Serril had been part of the Family before his gift appeared, and he later scooped up Jayin when she turned out to have Healing gifts. Tessa is a fellow Herald; she and Dean Ostel are friends of Serril’s. Bronte annoys everyone. Herald Kerina is a good friend of Serril’s and was summoned to put Truth Spell on Zanner. Errol is Kerina’s Companion.

Constable Farris works at the Watch House and wants to arrest Zanner. Bren is one of those whose business, Scents and Wonders, was vandalized. Zanner suspects that Nessa, tossed out by her parents, Jeck and Liah, is the target, as she moves from business to business, home to home. Elly is Nessa’s furious sibling.

Rebecca Fox’s “Ordinary Miracles”…

…tells a story of a lack of charity in religious hearts as a young orphan struggles to survive the family who took him in and his fears about his gift. It’s a sweet story that was easy to follow.

“If it weren’t our bounden duty to Vkandis Sunlord to shelter the orphan and destitute, I’d have turned you out to starve years ago.”

Why go to the trouble of turning me out when you can starve me right here?

Kip is a blacksmith’s boy. Spot is the cat he’s befriended. Sen is the blacksmith’s apprentice. Varelian is the chandler and village gossip. Old Man Dunnett likes to tell stories. Garal is angry over Dunnett’s cows crashing through his cornfield. Thuril is another farmer. Radiance Lastern sits on the Sun Throne. Vkandis Sunlord is the god the people of Karse revere. Aram is a Sunpriest. The Fires of Cleansing are bonfires used to burn people who have gifts. Voices of Vkandis are judges?? Portia is a Companion, a White Demon, in Kip’s dreams.

Michele Lang’s “Cloud and Sparrow”…

…was horrible. I could not figure out what species these two were or what is going on.

Sparrow is something, a mother, and unable to dreamcast who lives in k’Valdemar Vale. I can’t tell if she actually flies or only does it in dreams. If she’s human or ?? The blind Cloudbrother is her heartmate, Brock, and I think a Healer Herald, who ended up in Haven with Abilard, Cloudbrother’s Companion. Thistle “Tis” is the Adept son Sparrow bore. Hari had been her father. Old Farley was a mule from their childhood. Silver Cloud was a Cloudwalker Adept, Cloudbrother’s father in the clan. Rork is a hertasi and Sparrow’s best friend. No True Way: “Maiden’s Hope”, 1, is their previous story.

Angela Penrose’s “Clay and Fire”…

…is a sad one about losing family to a jealous man.

Herald Arvil is heading to the village of Elmdale. Graya is his Companion. Embry is Arvil’s husband with Rusty his bay horse. Herald Jinnia had been Arvil’s trainer.

In Elmdale, Sarry runs the Two Hares, the local inn/tavern. Samal is Sarry’s son. Villagers include Nan Turner, Hobbert and Eldric are both pig farmers; Danil Farmer grows wheat and is sweet on Bayla; Todd; Burn; Ulf; Young Hender; Kat; Anabet; and, Meg, who lived next door to Corden, Embry’s brother and a potter, and Nilly, Corden’s wife. Gilly is the daughter who was saved. Mort is Eldric’s son who wanted nothing to do with pig farming. Bayla was sweet on Mort. Annik had been Bayla’s best friend.

Stephanie D. Shaver’s “Bootknife”…

…finds a desperate Herald Wil trying to get back to Haven with a traitorous prisoner.

Cortsbeth is the town that needs the ferryman, Langfirch, a former Karsite, who, along with his mother, had been taken in 50 years ago by the childless ferryman. Herald Wil “Herald-Dad” is Langfirch’s son; Vehs is Wil’s Companion. Aubryn is the Companion who usually babysits Ivy and who’s helping to guard the criminal. Ivy is the daughter of Wil and Leila, a Herald Bard and Wil’s love. Daryann had been Wil’s sister; Elain had been his mother. The Herald-Spy, a.k.a., Bootknife, is Wil’s anonymous assistant; “Sashay” is his Companion. Addy makes good pies; Margot is her daughter. Selenay is queen of Valdemar. Elspeth is Selenay’s daughter who suffered a disastrous betrothal. Alberich is a foreigner and a Herald. Lea and Xander are a couple Langfirch ferries across the river.

Herald Bard Carris is under arrest for high treason and working for Lord Dark. Arms are cached on the Baireschild estates. Ferrin. Androa “Madra”, a traitorous Healer, makes weapons. Fent, a former Bard Trainee nicknamed the “War Bard”, is the Eternal Journeyman, Madra’s goon, and Lord Dark’s mouthpiece. Gault, Lim, and Drekker are part of Fent’s team.

Mercedes Lackey’s “To Catch a Thief”…

…is cute if a bit dumb. It’s Arville questioning his worth, and it takes Pelas and Ryu to point out the truth.

Herald Arville is making use of the caravan from Rod’s father; Pelas is his Companion and Ryu is his kyree. Arville’s gift is Luck and he can run really fast. Ruddy and Brownie are Zigans, a breed of horse that is pulling the caravan. Heralds Rod (he can mindspeak his Companion and is a natural leader, logical and practical), Laurel (has a variant on Empathy), and Alma (can mindspeak her Companion and is a genius Artificer) are his friends whom he met when all four were undergoing their trainee year with Herald Elyn.

Sternbridge is a tiny village. Dame Eller accused Yulia, her servant, unjustly. Morten is Eller’s son.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a deep blue and gold background of suns with squiggly rays. On top of it in the center is a triangular shield with a riveted steel band framing a marbled lilac background. A close-up of a rearing and angry white horse’s head is in profile with a pale blue bridle edged with bells and a rein with a cut-out border of blue edged in silver. Another triangular shield in a lighter deep blue background features a white pegasus against a starry background at the very top of the primary shield. A third triangular shield is at the pointed bottom of the primary with a black background and a red phoenix standing exposed with its wings out. At the top is a deeper blue rectangular box, edged in gold, with the title in the same blue with silver outline as the bridle and an epigraph in white below it. At the bottom of the cover is another similarly colored and edged box noting the editor’s name, in white.

The title is Pathways for all the routes that people follow in their lives.

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