Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey

Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey
DAW October 2010
Genre: Fantasy
Unabridged Audiobook Narrated by Nick Podehl

Official Description:
Mags was an orphan and slave of 'bad blood' who toiled in a gem mine all his young life. He would have died before adulthood, had he not been Chosen and taken to Haven to be trained in the new Herald Collegium.

Now, Mags was never hungry and never cold. He slept in a real bed in his own room and, most importantly, he had Dallen, who was like another part of himself. And yet, aside from Lena and Bear, both loners like he was, he couldn't relate to most of the Herald, Healer, or Bard trainees. He was the only trainee who came from what - to the others - was unimaginable poverty.

There was another factor that contributed to Mag's isolation. Foreign assassins, masquerading at court as envoys, were discovered. As they fled from the Guard, one of them seemed to "recognize" Mags. Now, Mags was an object of suspicion.

He had always been curious about his parents, but after the incident it became urgent for Mags to discover exactly who his parents were. And at Haven, he had access to the extensive Archives. Poring through the Archives, he got only incomplete information: his parents, found dead in a bandit camp, had been two of a number of hostages, some of whom had survived. The survivors had told the Guard that Mags' parents spoke a language that no one understood or recognized.

This information did not help, for the ForeSeers had been having visions of the king's assassination by "one of the foreign blood". Some had even Seen Mags with blood on his hands. How could Mags defend himself against a crime that hadn't yet been committed?

My Thoughts:

Intrigues was a stronger book than the first novel of this trio but that doesn't make it one of her better works. Mercedes Lackey is at a dangerous point in her writing where she has written so much and created so many characters from different walks of life in the world of Valdemar that some of the character aspects and plot devices start to feel recycled. We've already seen: the orphaned boy who thinks mostly of food, the despised/out of place trainee/herald, the sport as training for war, the trainee/herald that alienated his or her friends before finding themselves out of contact and in danger, and the trainee hiding as a member of a highborn household and as a beggar. Despite the reuse of certain plot devices, Lackey still manages to bring out a fresh story and add to the Lore of Valdemar. I did enjoy getting to see the transition from the Herald Mentor method of training to the Collegium classroom style of training.

I really enjoyed the time I spent listening to the audiobook of Intrigues. The narrator did an excellent job making the characters distinguishable though I didn't always agree with his vocal interpretation of the characters. The opening sequence of the novel was a bit difficult with transition to audiobook since it opens as a very long stream of consciousness about food and how Mags reacts to the relative privilege of the Collegium versus how the other herald trainees adjust. It works effectively as a way to drop the reader into Mags' head and identify the character but it feels like ten minutes of discussion about food. It might work better on paper but as an audiobook it feels like a heavy-handed introduction. One aspect that made the audiobook an interesting experience was the differentiation because vocalization and mindspeech.

Intrigues (and the first book in the series) showed me how much I've changed as a reader since the years when the Valdemar Series was my favorite selection of books. Mercedes Lackey knows how to tell an interesting story but technically her writing isn't as good as many of the writers that I've found as an adult. Valdemar will always have a special place in my heart, but I do prefer more depth in my fantasy now. I did enjoy Intrigues and will certainly read the final book in the trilogy but I will do so as a break between heavier novels, and possibly as an audiobook too. (Intrigues made a great break from re-reading George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice books!)

Written as Part of the Speculative Fiction Challenge

Other May Reviews from the Speculative Fiction Challenge

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to reading this one. I bought it last year but haven't read it yet, since I'm saving it for the end of my gigantic Valdemar reread, so that I don't read things out of order. I can't wait to be able to pick it up and see what happens to Mags, and then to let the excitement build for the release of the next part of the trilogy!