In March 1987, Mercedes Lackey, a young author from Oklahoma, published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. No one could have envisioned that this modest book about a magical land called Valdemar would be the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles.
Now the voices of other authors add their own special touches to the ancient land where Heralds “Chosen” from all walks of life by magical horse-like Companions patrol their ancient kingdom, dispensing justice, facing adversaries, and protecting their monarch and country from whatever threatens. Trained rigorously by the Herald’s Collegium, these special protectors each have extraordinary Gifts: Mindspeaking, FarSeeing, FarSpeaking, Empathy, Firestarting and ForeSeeing, and are bonded for life with their mysterious Companions. Travel with these astouding adventurerers in sixteen original stories.
I don’t know if I would be the voracious reader I am today, if not for the librarian at my local library, who handed me a copy of Arrows of the Queen back in the fifth grade. So it should be no surprise that I pick up every book by Mercedes Lackey that comes out each year, including the anthologies she edits, despite the fact I’m not a fan of anthologies in general.
While I haven’t read anything by the majority of the authors in One True Way, Lackey proves yet again that she knows just how to pick the perfect authors to help flesh out her world. The best part of these anthologies is the fact that we often get a look into locations or gifts on Velgarth that we don’t get to see in the main series.
I’m never entirely sure how to review the few anthologies that I do read, this time I figured I will just review each story as I read it and see how that goes. I will do my best to keep spoilers out of each short stories and hope no one really notices how many time I say something is my favorite story in the anthology.
The Whitest Lie by Stephanie D. Shaver:
The Whitest Lie tells the story of Wil, who attempts to decrypt a series of documents left behind by his late wife using his odd version of Foresight. This short story is one of my favorites for two reasons. First we get a look at a version of Foresight we’ve seen before, instead of just seeing confusing flashes of the future, Wil can focus and get glimpses of all points in time, past present and future. Secondly we get a look at what happens in Haven almost directly after Arrows Fall. It was interesting to get an idea of the events that lead up to Winds of Fate.
Old Loom, New Tapestry by Dayle A. Dermatis:
While she raised four children of her own who grew up to be Chosen, Lady Syrriah Trayne never expected to be chosen herself, or to find herself with an extremely powerful gift of Empathy. That is often the case with Heralds though, it is those who least it expect it who find themselves living the life. This story was a great example of the one belief that keeps Valdemar running strong. A Companions choice is never wrong and they are always chosen for a purpose. The events of Old Loom, New Tapestry show that although she came to it late in life, Syrriah was always destined to be a Herald.
The Barest Gift by Brenda Cooper:
In most of Mercedes Lackeys Valdemar books it is the Heralds with the powerful gifts who end up saving the day. It is not always the biggest most powerful gifts are needed though. Sometimes it is the smallest most inconsequential gifts that are needed the most. Just as it is not always the Herald who is there to save the day, but the innkeepers daughter who is there to save the Herald. It is stories like The Barest Gift that make me wish we got to see the world outside of Haven and the Heralds a bit more often than we get to.
Consequences Unforeseen by Elizabeth A. Vaughan:
This story was interesting in that it shows an aspect of Valdemar that we rarely see in the books. What happens in the kingdom after one of its many wars, and what life is like out in a country estate. Surprisingly this turned out to be one of my favorite stories in the anthology, and I really hope it gets continue in next years anthology.
Written in the Wind by Jennifer Brozek:
Here we get a good explanation of why even after the end of Storm Breaking it is still rare to find a Herald Mage. This was one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read, I feel like I will be recovering from it days from now. I found it to be one of the more moving and better written stories in the anthology. I really hope Mercedes Lackey moves out of Valdemar’s past and back into its future one day.
Nwah by Ron Collins:
I found this story as it was a bit odd, being told from the point of view of one of the Kyree. Although we get glimpses of the Kyree throughout the series, this is the first time I’ve truly understood just what it means to bond to one of the Kyree. It is always interesting to see the Velgarth through the eyes of one of its non human inhabitants. From Nwah we get a fairly good idea just what the Kyree are possible of when their lives are in danger.
Spun Magic by Kristin Schwengel:
Stardance is one of the fabled Tayledras, more commonly known to the rest of the world as the Hawk Brothers, and this is the story of her mastery test. While I enjoyed this story (As I’m sure I will every story in this anthology) and thought it was well written, it was not one of my favorite stories; I feel like stories of the Tayledras dealing with the after effects of the Mage Storms have been overdone.
Weavings by Diana L. Paxson:
This is another story that I enjoyed quite a bit, it has everything I love about a story set in this world. There is a Herald and his Companion, strange and dangerous creatures coming out of the Pelagir to attack people, and interesting an interesting variation on a known Gift. It’s nice to see a series that has been going strong for 28 years now still has some interesting tricks up its sleeve!
A Wake of Vultures by Elisabeth Waters:
Here we get another really detailed look at one of the minor gifts only briefly touched upon in the main books. Animal Mindspeech. A fascinating look at exactly what it is an what you can do with it, as well as a look into one of the religions only briefly mentioned in the books.
Maiden’s Hope by Michele Lang:
This one is little slice of story about what happens around the Forest of Shadows and Errolds Grove after the events of Owlknight. While there are no appearances by any old friends there are references to them an the healing sanctuary at K’Vala Vale. After finishing it I find myself really wishing we knew exactly what happens to Darian and Keisha,
Ex Libris by Fiona Patton:
I didn’t think there would be horror stories in this anthology, but to me that is exactly what this story is. Books are disappearing one by one from an elderly scholars personal library and Sergeant Hektor Dann, of the Haven City Watch, is determined to find out who and why. Ex Libris is an interesting look into the life and work of the City Watch.
A Dream Reborn by Dylan Birtolo:
I was a bit uncertain about this story at first, but it grew on me rather quickly. It is interesting to get glimpses at the future of Valdemar in a good portion of these short stories. This story is a good reminder that not every hero is a Herald.
Forget Me Never by Cedric Johnson:
The discovery of never before seen gifts, or gifts that manifest themselves in odd ways seems to be a common theme in the majority of these short stories. Forget Me Never is a good example of this, as they don’t even have a name for the gift revealed in it yet. Though, I feel like Mag’s has this same gift in some small way.
Beyond the Fires by Louisa Swann:
Swann’s story gives us a look into the life of a Tedrel camp slave, and it is a horrible life to live. The only thing that kept me going through the story was the fact that I already knew the outcome of the Tedrel Wars.
A Brand from the Burning by Rosemary Edgehill and Rebecca Fox:
This story was fun mainly because it gives us a look into the early life of an important character in the history of both Valdemar and Karse. At this point in her life Solaris is nothing but a young orphan girl with no idea what future has in store for her. While she may be young and naive in some ways, you get the occasional glimpse of just who, and what, she will one day be.
Vixen by Mercedes Lackey:
While every story in this anthology really expands the world of Velgarth and the country of Valemar, it is no surprise to me that Mercedes Lackey’s story is my favorite of the lot. First, it’s the only story about a real healer in the anthology, and it’s always nice to learn some more about an ability or gift that’s not explained all that well throughout the books. Then there is the fact that it’s the first new story I can think of featuring Vanyel Demonsbane since the end of the Magic’s Price trilogy. Vanyel is a fascinating character like always, and you get a good idea once again why he quickly gains the nickname Magic’s Pride from his fellow Heralds. Vixen is a sharp tongued healer with no time for bullies or fools, and together they make a great team as they face down massive lizards an spiders.
I think anyone who is a fan of Mercedes Lackey should go out right now and buy this anthology, there are a lot of great stories, and the return of many old faces. As for anyone who hasn’t read any of her books should pick up a copy of Arrows of the Queen at the first possible chance, they won’t regret it!