Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

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Foundation is the first book in Mercedes Lackey’s new series The Collegium ChroniclesThe Collegium Chronicles is the newest sub series in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar Series.  In Foundation, we get some more of Valdemar’s missing history.  This series may be of more interest to someone who has read some of the other Valdemar series books. it does assume that you have read some of the other novels, but it gives you enough information to read it without having read the others. Personally, I wouldn’t start the series with this book as it is not her best one.  It would be better to start with The Heralds of Valdemar Series or The Last Herald Mage Series.  As an avid reader of the Valdemar series (I have read them all and own most of them), I really enjoyed this novel because I enjoy knowing anything and everything about Valdemar’s present or past.   Lackey’s writing style is very easy to read, and her books always seem to be a quick read to me. She always writes such good characters that struggle with everyday issues.

Background: There are 7 other trilogies and 5 other novels in the Valdemar series; most of the trilogies can be read within themselves.  But occasionally they will refer to the other novels.  Now that Lackey has fleshed a history or timeline in the Valdemar series starting with the beginning in The Mage Wars series and ending with the most historically recent Darian’s Tales (there is a timeline in the front of every Valdemar novel); she is  filing in the  spaces in the history of the Kingdom of Valdemar.  In this particular series, we are in the time period when the Collegium or the colleges for the Bards, Healers and Heralds were built. This is early in the history of Valdemar taking place right after The Last Herald Mage Trilogy. 

The Kingdom of Valdemar is a very unique place.  Women can be rulers, and the government tries to be fair as possible.  There are four types of unique people in Valdemar.  Bards–who sing so that you are transported into or experience firsthand the song; Healers–those who have herb knowledge and those that can use their energy to heal someone magically; Mages (which are in some books and not in some) who would be your magic users or could include people with gifts like fire starting, fetching and farseeing, and Heralds.  Heralds are the focus of many of the Valdemar novels. Heralds are people who are selected by mythical white horses called Companions.  Companions are intelligent and can mind speak to their chosen.  They have the ability to see inside the person to determine whether or not they are good people therefore no bad people are chosen. Not to say they can’t have stretched the law a bit—one of the chosen in the The Heralds of Valdemar series is a thief.  Heralds act as the law in Valdemar. They help defend the borders if necessary and generally ride circuits around the kingdom to settle disputes within the kingdom and to spread royal edict information. A Herald’s word is the law within the Kingdom so that the rulings they make stand as law, although big decisions must be approved by the sovereign, who usually is a Herald, themselves. Heralds often have different gifts (whatever is needed by Valdemar at the time) one was a thief, there was a fire starter, a mage, all types.  Each trilogy usually tells the story of one particular Herald and the reason why he was chosen or how his gift was needed by Valdemar.  Most of the time we have heard of the famous Heralds before, Vanyel is mentioned in the first series written, Levan Fire-starter (a stand alone book) was mentioned somewhere else in the series, To Take a Thief tells the story of side character in The Heralds of Valdemar series, etc.  One of the things that makes Foundation so interesting is that I am not sure who Mags turns out to be (my sister and I think he changes he name somewhere along the way and we will recognize him then).

Plot:  In Foundation we follow the story of Mags, a boy who has been forced to work in a mine all his life until he is chosen.  His gift is the gift of mind speech. After he is rescue from the mine, he is taken to Haven the capital of Valdemar where he is to be trained to become a herald.  He must take classes, sword practice (a herald must be able to defend himself), and riding lessons.  Mags finds this a bit over whelming and is so used to keeping to himself that he finds it hard to make friends.  He also has no family (he is an orphan) which makes him different from all the other Heralds, Bards and Healers in Haven.  There is also conflict in Haven.  There is a new school being built for the herald trainees. Traditionally heralds learn by going out into the field (riding circuits) with experienced Heralds which allowed them to learn firsthand about the job of being a herald.  Only now there are too many herald trainees and not enough Heralds to train them,  and so a school is being built. But some Heralds think that you can’t train new Heralds in a schoolroom.  Plus there is a strange diplomat in Valdemar who may not be as friendly as he seems.  Where does Mags fit into all of this?  You will have to read to find out.

What I enjoy most about Mercedes Lackey’s books is her characters.  They always seem like real people to me, they have depth and they grow throughout their books or trilogies.   They struggle with issues that are ones you could be facing yourself.  Her writing style is very easy to read.  Her books moved very quickly and I am never bored. Her books have very little sex and a reasonable amount violence as her plots aren’t so week that they need to be supported by sex and violence.  She usually gives us the right amount of intrigue splashed with action so that you are never bored.  Her books usually short (this one is 340 pages as a Science Fiction Book Club hardback), so they would be a nice vacation read, on the beach or maybe on the airplane.

I love Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series.  If you are looking for a good fantasy series, hers is one of the best.  If you like the Valdemar series, then Foundation fits right in and you should love it. Lackey is a consistently good writer.

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