Published by Penguin on October 4th 2011
Number of Pages: 400
Purchase: At Amazon
Mags was a Herald Trainee in the brand new Heraldic Collegium in Haven, Valdemar's capital city. Though his background of unimaginable poverty and abuse set him apart from most other trainees, nonetheless he had found his own special group of friends. Bear, Lena, and Amily were all students whose situations in life set them apart from more usual trainees, and together the four friends struggled to help one another find the solutions to their individual problems.
But Mags' friendship with Amily brought him to the attention of her father Nikolas -- the King's Own. The seemingly immortal Companion Rolan had Chosen Nikolas to suit the specific needs of the current monarch, and those needs were for an agent who could collect information surreptitiously -- a King's Own spy. Nikolas recognized the same traits in Mags that Rolan had recognized in him. Both were inconspicuous with an almost uncanny ability to fade into the woodwork. Both could mimic low-class behavior and pidgin speech. Both were unusually expert at observing the situations around them, and at ferreting out hidden motives.
So Mags began training as Nikolas' partner. They worked in disguise at night in one of the seedier parts of Haven, where Nikolas had set up a false identity as a pawnbroker and fence. Hiding in the shadows behind the desk, pretending to neither hear nor speak, Mags could better "observe" the clients, and even the surrounding neighborhood. And Nikolas could send him out on "errands" to chase down leads.
But this new job was far more dangerous than Mags had ever considered. For there were mysterious agents in the city -- agents who sought to bring down the kingdom, and no one knew where they came from or who they worked for. They were smart, talented, and preternaturally fast. And most of all they were willing to do anything --anything-- to bring Valdemar to ruin.
“It’s on account’a I’m a bonehead, an’ don’t allus ‘member what th’ right word is, so I come’s close as I kin… People figger it out!”
Mags reminds me a lot of Skif from Take A Thief. Which might be one reason I like him. I like Skif better, but there’s something about Mags that’s slightly charming. His method of speech may turn people off, he’s an abused orphan from a slave mine. And so never learned ‘correct’ speech. He tends to forget or not know the correct word to use sometimes, and thus makes up words. He either can’t say, or just doesn’t say, certain letters, and has a very distinct way of speaking.
I like his friends, especially Bear and Lena. Herald Nikolas, the King’s Own, is another good one. But there was just something about this particular book that dragged a bit for me. The first two in the series were really good, kept my attention and made me want to finish them right away. This one took me days, I kept finding other things to distract myself with.
It might have been all the Kirball games, pages and pages of explanations about how it’s played and the moves of all the players. I’ve never really been into sports, watching or reading about them. Mags is a star Kirball player, so I’m not surprised that got written about. It’s just that there was so much of it.
And the plot about why Ice and Stone are after Mags and Amily has been dragging on from book 1. Different characters, different plots about how they got into Valdemar and why they might be after Mags. But nothing ever gets resolved. By book 3 I expect a little bit more than exciting chase scenes, intrigue, captures and losses, and still no answers about why any of this is happening in the first place.
I do like how we get to see more in these books. More about the Heralds, more about Bardic and Healers’ Collegium. They’re not a total focus on one Herald and Companion, but let you see glimpses of life in other areas. You even get to see the workroom Vanyel used to make the Web, for those of you who have read the Last Herald-Mage trilogy.
I already own book 4, so hopefully it is better than this one. But if not, I won’t be continuing on with this particular chapter of Valdemar. Which is sad, because I love Valdemar, but I want to keep loving it and not end up disliking it because this plotline discolored it for me.