I have loved Mercedes Lackey’s books for thirty years. I still have the SFBC omnibus of the Last Herald Mage trilogy on my shelf. I can’t tell you how many times I read it. It was probably my first reading experience with gay characters and it probably helped me to be open and welcoming to my friends who came out a few years after I read it.
I haven’t read many of her Valdemar books in the last few years. I read the Collegium Chronicles series, which was fun, but I felt it dragged on too long, with too many kidnappings, and Mags’s accent drove me bananas. I lost touch with the series when my library stopped buying the ebooks of the Herald Spy series after Closer to Home, so I was very excited to see what happened to Mags and his kids when NetGalley and the publisher gave me an eARC of Spy, Spy Again, the third volume in the series focusing on Mags’s kids.
Sadly, I found this tale disappointing. Instead of the interesting coming of age tale the blurb was promising, this book was a boring slog with paper-thin characters. Perhaps I missed something by not reading the preceding volumes? Mags’s cipher of a son and a boring Valdemarian prince are enlisted to help one of Mags’s assassin cousins to rescue another assassin cousin who has been captured. Lackey does nothing here to make me like the assassin family or culture. They kill for money and nothing in the text explains why these characters should be likable. Yet every other chapter is spent with Sira, assassin who is kidnapped by Karsites. Why was she kidnapped? What was the Karsites plans? The book doesn’t bother to go into these things. The book really lost me here when the Karsite guards come to rape Sira. Why? Why is rape necessary as a motivating factor? It seems so unnecessary. Sira fights off the rapists and eventually she is rescued and she and the prince immediately fall in love in a way that feels particularly unrealistic.
I hope Mercedes Lackey keeps writing Valdemar books. I look forward to when she decides to move away from Mags and his family. And enough with the rape! It’s the 21st century! Haven’t we moved beyond that awful trope? In the meantime, I may go back to my copy of the Last Herald Mage.