Mercedes Lackey’s newest novel in the long-standing adventures of Valdemar is REDOUBT, the fourth novel in what is now being called “The Collegium Chronicles” (originally it was the “Collegium Trilogy,” but as we’re already in the fourth book, it’s just as well that the former appellation has been scrapped — except at Lackey’s own page). And before you get into this one, you may want to check out the review of the previous novel in this cycle, CHANGES, which is here.
All right — our heroes are still Herald-trainee Mags, his Companion, Dallen, his love-interest, Amily, his best friend, Healer-trainee Bear, and his other best friend, Bardic-trainee Lena. And things remain somewhat in flux; no one knows what two mysterious and shady individuals known as Ice and Storm were doing in Valdemar in the last book, much less why they seemingly recognized Mags and said, “Not you! You weren’t supposed to be here!” (Best paraphrase, that.)
REDOUBT starts slowly as the Prince has just gotten married to a commoner — a rather wealthy commoner, and unlike the real-life marriage of Prince Charles of England to Lady Diana Spencer, this Valdemarian wedding appears to be a true love-match. This wedding allows for all of the previous information in the three books that’s important — that Mags was brought up in a mine, that he’s not much like most of the other Heralds, etc. — and gets the reader up to speed within a few, short chapters.
Then something awful happens — Mags gets captured, and this time, the people capturing him bring him to Valdemar’s hereditary enemy, Karse. Yet they aren’t Karsite, which Mags notes as strange; as they quickly drug Mags with something that appears to knock out his telepathy (or Mindspeaking, in Lackey’s parlance), Mags isn’t able to alert his Companion in any way, shape or form that he’s been taken, much less as to where he is.
Because Mags is a survivor — all that experience in that nasty mine, where he was particularly ill-treated — he of course manages to survive. But when he’s rescued by of all people a young priest of Karse, Mags doesn’t know what to do. (Because the priests of Karse, ’tis said, will have no mercy upon a Herald or Herald-trainee, thinking that the Heralds all ride “demon horses.”)
So there are a number of nifty mysteries here, to wit:
- Why has Mags been taken? Who are these people, and what do they want?
- Why would a Karsite priest, of all people, come to the aid of Mags when Mags is not Karsite himself? (Is it the priest’s youth that is the main factor? Or is it something else?)
- And what will Mags do to get back home, especially as he still has no Mindspeech?
All of these questions will be answered, but in turn raise even more questions. (Which means book 5 of the Collegium Chronicles had best be on the way, soonest . . . just saying.)
Overall, REDOUBT is a big improvement over CHANGES, mostly because getting Mags away and on his own shows how intelligent, independent and resourceful he is. This allows for a better suspension of disbelief, far more engagement with Mags himself, and a better appreciation of what Mags brings to the table as a hero.
Bottom line: this is a good effort in a long-running series that held my interest and actually made me re-read it a time or two in the process. But I do hope Mags’ story will be completed in book five — whenever book five is slated to arrive, that is.
— reviewed by Barb