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Released: June 15th 2021
Series: The Founding of Valdemar #1
“…this opening volume did not disappoint.”~ Under the Covers
If you, like me, grew up on Mercedes Lackey stories, the tale of the founding of Valdemar has been a long time coming. And this opening volume did not disappoint.
Duke Kordas Valdemar leads a tiny, bucolic Duchy most known for breeding the famous Valdemar Gold horses. After generations of dealing with an exploitative and evil emperor, the Valdemar dukes and their families have been developing The Plan, a way to escape the Empire and protect their people. With things getting continuously worse, Kordas is constantly stressed and trying to find ways to trick the Emperor’s spies into ignoring his Duchy. Then one of their mages has a breakthrough and they finally have a way to place a Gate so far from the Empire that it’s unlikely the Emperor can follow them. To add another layer of complication, Kordas gets called to court and has to try to act the country bumpkin long enough to let the people of Valdemar flee before they get dragged into the Imperial wars.
Mercedes Lackey was one of the first adult fantasy authors that I read while growing up, and her books were definitely where I found my love of the genre. Especially fantasy romance, not that I knew that that was its own sub-genre at the time (check out the Bardic Voices trilogy if you haven’t already). As an adult, my reading has gone in a different direction, but getting back into the world of Valdemar (or at least its creation) felt very nostalgic. I enjoyed the dual perspectives of seeing the story from the eyes of both Kordas and Delia, his sister-in-law. We got to feel the maturity and world-weariness of Kordas and the young, sometimes immature thoughts of Delia. Admittedly, she’s 16, so she is immature; I liked that we actually saw that. We also get to see The Plan really come to fruition across the Empire. There’s a diverse cast of characters we get to know as well (can we have Hakkon and Jonaton’s story please?).
As a whole, there was a bit of tell-not-show situation going on in terms of the world-building, but that’s not atypical for a Mercedes Lackey book. Having information frequently get conveyed from “elders” makes it feel more natural than some books that have too much info dumping. I think my only hang-up is that it seems like The Plan goes too well. Shouldn’t more things go wrong? Shouldn’t there be more danger? Given what we know of the developed world of Valdemar of previous books though, I think the rest of this series will definitely bring in more of these struggles.
Obviously, if you love Mercedes Lackey, you have to read this book. It fits so well into the overall world of her backlist. However, I don’t recommend starting with this story if you’ve never read anything by this author before, as it might feel a bit incomplete without the backstory of knowing where everything is ultimately going. In that case, check out a couple of her other books and then give this one a try!
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