author: Mercedes Lackey
series: The Herald Spy #1
published: 7 October 2014
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Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.
Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?
Closer to Home is the first book in The Herald-Spy trilogy, a sequel series to The Collegium Chronicles series in the Valdemar saga. This one, too, focuses on Mags, who is now a full-fledged Herald.
I love Mags’ character so much. And I love his version of being a Herald. The Heralds are people above reproach, literally magically sanctioned people who are the foundation of what works for the Kingdom of Valdemar. And Mags is all of that, but yet still a bit on the shady side. But shady in the name of the greater good. As a Herald-Spy, Mags sometimes operates in the gray areas between the black and the white. In this book, he really comes into his own as he begins to work more and more on his own, expanding his network and finding his own way.
This book is just as much about Amily, too. She’s spent her life a bit in the shadows. This is partly because she’s the daughter of the former King’s Own, the second most important person in the kingdom, and partly because her disability left her too often on the sidelines. But much has happened, both in healing her leg and the unexpected turn of events that left her as the new King’s Own. Overnight, everything has changed for her. Gone is the brown sparrow; now she’s the second most important person in the kingdom.
The story is centered around a plot to undermine, even destroy, the Heralds. It’s up to Mags and Amily to sort through the family feuds, the intrigue, and determine who is responsible for the treachery.
The only thing I don’t love about the story is that Amily, even though she’s now the King’s Own, still stays in the background more often than not. Her father, although simply a Herald now, still often performs the King’s Own duties. There are reasons, but it still irked me from a feminist perspective from time to time!
As all of the Valdemar series, I loved this book. If you love high fantasy, this is a great saga!