… are an ancient order, drawn from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages, these unusual individuals are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horselike Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. With their Companions, the Heralds of Valdemar ride circuit throughout the kingdom protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.
Now, fifteen authors travel with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique gifts to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this well-loved fantasy realm.
I’ve been a huge fan of Mercedes Lackey’s work since I was fourteen, so writing an objective review was always going to be hard. So I thought I’d just come out and say it: I love Mercedes Lackey’s books; they are my literary chocolate, I can reread them time and again and no one is going to take them from me, so there! Well, now I’ve got that rather adolescent statement of my chest, here is a more mature, but probably equally fangirlish piece by me on why you should read Mercedes Lackey over on Fantasy Literature. All this being said, here’s my review for the latest Valdemar anthology Finding the Way, you can be the judge whether I’m succeeded in being objective!
For the past three years early December marks the publication of a Valdemar anthology (the previous three were published in 1997, 2003 and 2005 respectively) and Finding the Way is the latest in the series. And it’s at once one of the best and one of the more frustrating of the anthologies. To be honest however, the points that frustrated me most were mostly subjective and not tied to the writing itself, so it might not bother people not familiar with the other anthologies. The biggest niggle is that all the authors are returning contributors. There isn’t one new author in this bunch of stories. On the one hand, this makes it possible to have recurring characters – which is great – but on the other hand, exploring new authors through familiar universes is one of the attractive side benefits of these kinds of anthologies. And while having recurring characters and storylines is great fun, for a die-hard Valdemar fan it is also an opportunity lost to explore a new corner of Velgarth or something new and unique to the universe. The last thing that really bugged me was the fact that there were some continuity mistakes and typo’s that weren’t caught before printing. I know mistakes happen, but it was distracting, because my eye kept snagging on the typo’s and stopping me reading.
Any collection of stories will have duds and Finding the Way is no different. But, with only two stories out of the fifteen that really didn’t click for me, the number of disappointments is very small. The stories that didn’t work for me were Mickey Zucker Reichert’s The Education of Evita and Michael Z. Williamson and Gail Sander’s The Groom’s Price. Zucker Reichert has had stories in all six anthologies and her stories are always rather ‘hit or miss’ for me and this time it was a miss. I just found the titular character of Evita annoying and I couldn’t get past that. Williamson and Sanders’ story just didn’t do it for me, which was a shame because it was a Shina’in story and I’ve enjoyed Williamson’s previous contributions a lot.
While all other thirteen stories were highly enjoyable, my favourites were the titular story by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, Finding the Way, Elisabeth Waters’ A Charm of Finches, Kate Paulk’s Heart’s Choice and Sarah A. Hoyt’s Heart’s Own. The Lackey/Dixon story is a story about an Hertasi, the little lizard-like non-humans that live in the Pelagirs. They are one of my favourite non-human races in the Velgarth universe, so I enjoyed this closer look immensely. Waters’ A Charm of Finches is a continuation of last year’s A Storytelling of Crows and I adored this look at Gifted people not part of the Collegia. Paulk and Hoyt’s stories were both great new Jem and Ree stories. I love these two characters and it’s a unique view of life after the Mage Storms.
All in all, this was another fun addition to the Velgarth universe. I wouldn’t recommend it to people new to the Valdemar books; I’d recommend starting with either the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy or the Last Herald-Mage series, but for any Valdemar fan, this will be a must-read regardless of any flaws. Some of the stories will benefit from having read the previous ones, but most stand solidly on their own. I enjoyed this quick visit to Valdemar and I can’t wait to go back for a longer stay with Intrigues later this year.