Mags, the young Herald-in-training protagonist, has come a long way since his days of slaving in a mine. He may continue to talk like a guttersnipe, but it turns out this is by design, and his reasons for doing so are sound. He has grown into his Talent as a Mindspeaker, and he’s stopped worrying that he doesn’t belong at the Collegium. He still wonders where he came from, but he is confident in his friendships, his skill as a Kirball player, and his role as a junior spy helping none other than the King’s Own.
But the attacks against Haven haven’t stopped; only the target has changed - now it is Amily who is in danger. Meanwhile,
and Bear, Mag’s other best friends, are still tormented by their respective fathers’ expectations for them to be submissive little chips off the old blocks.
All four friends mature greatly in this story, not without serious growing pains. To a certain extent, Mags helps each of his friends, sometimes directly, more often indirectly; but at some point, each of them has to face, and face down, their worst fears. Mags himself doesn’t always like what he’s turning into, or the choices he makes along the way; but he always tries to see his way clearly, honestly, to the best right action the situation allows.
The “surprise guest” of the story turns out to be the modified Heartstone left in place by Vanyel, which functions as an informative sort of deus ex machina in one of the funnier scenes.
Changes does not quite seem to be the concluding book of the set; if it is intended as the last installment, it leaves the big question Mag’s parentage - unanswered. But perhaps that question’s thread will reappear elsewhere than in a 4th installment to the Chronicles, say in the forthcoming Valdemar anthology of short stories, titled Under the Vale. Plug, plug! ~~ Chris Paige