Completed 10/20/2019, Reviewed 10/20/2019
Magic’s Promise is the second installment in the Valdemar: Last Herald-Mage trilogy. It picks up over a decade after the first book. Vanyel visits his family after four years away and confronts many of his own demons as well as real demons in this highly enjoyable follow-up. In the first half of the book, there is really no action, only the encounters with his family and the household employees. Yet Mercedes Lackey writes it really well, with all the immediacy and pacing of a well-crafted adventure novel. I found myself plowing through it as it held me emotionally and intellectually.
Vanyel is now the most powerful Herald-Mage in the land and has just finished a terrible tour of duty at the front lines of a war, exhausted, gaunt, and ready for a leave. He doesn’t really want to go to visit the family, but if he stays at the Mage center, his alma mater, he’s concerned he will be called on another mission, and he simply does not have the stamina for that. He goes home with much trepidation as his relationship with his family is pretty strained. But it has been four years since his last visit and he feels it is his duty to visit. There, he has numerous confrontations with his father and Jervis, the abusive armsmaster. Halfway through the book and his visit home, his Companion Yfandes (a horse with the soul of a woman) hears a terrible cry for help in the neighboring land. Vanyel and Yfandes rush to the scene where a horrible bloodbath has taken place. The only survivor is a near-catatonic teen who is being blamed for the tragedy. Recognizing that something is very wrong with the scenario, Vanyel escapes with the teen to his home farm and tries to find out if the boy killed everyone or if something even more nefarious is going on.
As I stated above, the first half of the book could be considered somewhat slow, but it is written so well, it completely had me enrapt. Lackey knows relationships and character development. The confrontations between Vanyel and his father and Jervis are remarkable. Even though he’s twenty-eight years old now, Vanyel still feels like the awkward, closeted teen when he goes home, trying to gain acceptance. But he’s maturing in front of their eyes, taking a stand for himself and not letting anyone get away with bullshit. His biggest problem turns out to be his mother who thinks that if he found the right woman, it would make him straight. So she puts it in the mind of the one of the household staff who has been in love with him since he was a boy to pursue him at all costs. This makes for some laughable and embarrassing situations.
Yfandes comes out as major character as his Companion. Companions are horses but contain the soul of a woman. They choose Heralds and Mages and become lifelong companions, as their name implies. As long as the Herald and/or Mage has some psychic ability, the two can communicate with each other. Companions also communicate with each other acting as a go between for people who do cannot Read each other. I really liked Yfandes and her role with Vaneyl. She acts sort of as a guardian angel, giving advice and often keeping her Chosen’s feet in reality the way no one else can.
Jervis’ character was a big surprise to me. I don’t want to give away too much, but he is so much more than the cardboard character from the first book.
I have to say I am still really enjoying this series. I thought this one would be a little boring because the first half of the book is simply family dynamics. But it was riveting. I was almost sorry to see the plot of the bloodbath come up. However, as with the first book, Lackey uses the mystery and the action to enhance the characters while still making it exciting reading. Even the boy who is near catatonic at the beginning of this sequence has moments of growth. I give this book five stars out of five. It’s unusual for me to give two books in a row five stars, but I was once again very emotionally involved with this book. I could feel the interactions between Vanyel and his father and Jervis in my gut. And thanks to my usual insomnia, I read almost the whole book yesterday through this early morning. I can’t wait to read the third and final novel in this trilogy.