There are twenty-two stories in this anthology and they ran the gamut from dealing with the Hawkbrothers, gryphons and the hertasi and the aftermath of the Mage storms to Heralds making their circuits for the Queen of Valdemar.
My favorites are the ones that deal with the more current environment in Valdemar, with the Heralds and their horse-like magical Companions dealing with specific events that need untangling, like “Girl Without The Gifts” by Janny Wurts about a blind girl who finds a Companion whose Herald has gone missing and she decides to take the Companion back to Haven and the Queen on her own. Or “The Apprentice and the Stable Master” by Brenda Cooper about a young girl and her mother who live with a brutish lord and the girl, who has the Healing gift but is afraid to use it, finds her true worth with the help of another. “One Last Night Manning the Home Station” by Brigid Collins is great and the “Unwanted Gift” by Anthea Sharp is also a strong tale.
The novels Lackey wrote concerning the Mage wars and the aftermath are ones I haven’t read in quite a while, so trying to remember who the dyheli and the hertasi are and what an ekele is and where k’Leysha Vale is proved to be stumbling blocks. And when you are reading a short story you don’t have time to orient yourself. The stories are delightful, don’t get me wrong; I’m just pointing out that my unfamiliarity with the specific kinds of people and where they were proved to muddy my enjoyment of the story overall.
The biggest example of this confusion was the final story by Lackey and husband/author Larry Dixon, “Ripples and Cracks”. It’s a powerful story dealing with world altering events…but I was completely lost because I couldn’t place the timeline or the names of the magical characters, and there were a lot of them. It was fascinating, but a great many of the reasons behind the action and dialogue was unclear.
I did want to point out one of the most outstanding stories for me, set in Haven and concerning an itinerant merchant who is more than he appears is “Haver Hearthstone” by Fiona Patton. It has just a wonderful flow and ebb to its construction and the story was terrific. I wish it had been longer.
So, for those of you who really have the whole time line of Lackey’s fabulous world of Valdemar clearly in mind are going to enjoy a lot of these tales the most. Nevertheless, that caveat aside, the writing is excellent and so are the imaginations. ~~ Sue Martin