In this chronicle of the early history of Valdemar, a thirteen-year ¬old orphan named Magpie escapes a life of slavery in the gem mines when he is chosen by one of the magical companion horses of Valdemar to be trained as a herald. Thrust into the center of a legend in the making, Magpie discovers talents he never knew he had-and witnesses the founding of the great Heralds’ Collegium.
(Description taken from the author’s website http://www.mercedeslackey.com)
When Foundation was first released I was super excited. At the time it had been about five years since the last full Valdemar novel was published and I was so glad to return to one of my favourite universes, that I just tore through it. When I finally got my hands on Intrigues, the second part of the series this last December, I decided to reread Foundation, both to refresh the story in my mind and to be able to review the entire trilogy on the blog. And on second read, Foundation was just as enjoyable as it was the first time.
The story is classic Valdemaran Mercedes Lackey; we encounter a young protagonist, Mags, in dire circumstances and through being Chosen he’s brought to Haven to become a Herald. Here he’s seen as an outsider and strange and there are those who’d rather get rid of him, than embrace him as part of the Heraldic Circle. Yes, this is a story we’ve seen from Lackey before; it’s very reminiscent of Arrows of the Queen and To Take a Thief, but it is a story Lackey writes well and one that is relatively timeless in its appeal, as there will always be adolescents who can relate to such a story. And even though I am far past my adolescence, it still hasn’t lost its appeal on me either!
What sets Foundation apart from its predecessors is its setting and its cast of characters. Foundation is set around the time the Collegia, as we encounter them in most of the Valdemar novels, were constructed. We witness not just the reason for their founding, but also the opposition to them among the more conservative members of the Heraldic Circle. These developments are interesting to watch and deepen the lore of Valdemar we’ve already seen previously. In addition, the embryonic state of the Collegia also allows a natural mixing of Trainees of the different Circles and gives us a closer look at all of them though Mags’ closest friends Bear, a Healer Trainee, and Lena, a Bardic Trainee. I really enjoyed the widening of the narrative’s scope beyond just the Heraldic Circle and seeing more of not just Collegium life, but also of Haven life.
Mags is surrounded by a cool cast of characters. The most prominent of these are his Companion Dallen, his friends Bear and Lena and his Haven circle of friends, most importantly Lydia, the niece to a prominent Haven merchant and Amily, the daughter of the King’s Own Herald. I liked that Mags relationship with Dallen was one of equals, as it would have been very easy to just have Dallen be the fount of all wisdom for the incredibly ignorant Mags, even after Mags arrives at the Collegium and starts getting an education. Instead, Dallen seems as flustered by some events as Mags is which made their bond all the more believable. Lena and Bear are great windows onto the other Circles and a great way to see Mags cut his teeth on ‘normal’ social interactions with his peers, something he’d never encountered before arriving at Haven. The Heralds Mags meets are of all stripes and convictions. The one thing that puzzled me is that we never learn the name of the King. As the monarch is always named in previous Valdemar novels and in the timeline included in the front of the books they are usually subdivided by reign, this surprised me. But, to be honest it’s a fangirl’s complaint and has no impact whatsoever on the story itself.
With Foundation, Mercedes Lackey returned to her beloved Valdemar universe. It was a great return trip and, in my opinion, a nice place for new Valdemar readers to get started, as it’s representative of the author’s style and of the Valdemar universe itself without needed to know all the lore packed into previous series to understand the story and its details. So whether you’re already a fan of Mercedes Lackey or new to her writing, Foundation is a good place to start. And since this is an older book, the next two instalments of The Collegium Chronicles, Intrigues and Changes are already available and a fourth novel is in the works. I know I’m looking forward to reading Changes and the as yet untitled fourth novel. Look for a review of Intrigues in the next week.