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by Mercedes Lackey
DAW books; $7.99; 391 pp
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
This is the fifth book in the Collegium Chronicles set in Valdemar and we are once again following Mags, now as a Herald Trainee. He goes on his first Herald’s circuit with his Companion Dallen and Herald Jakyr (and his Companion Jermayan ) accompanied by his friends Bear (a Healer) and Lena his wife (a Bardic trainee), and Amily (Mags’ love and a warrior). Lita, the head of the Bardic College, also comes along. She and Jakyr have a Past. A very tempestuous past. The whole caravan is headed to The Bastion - a warren of caves which in ancient times was a Hawkbrothers Vale with their lizard brethren the hertasi. It is hoped that Mags can be protected here from the assassins they know are coming after him. These assassins had taken Mags captive in a previous novel and almost drugged and tortured him into becoming one of them. Through that experience, it’s discovered that Mags was born a member of the Sleepgivers, as the assassins name themselves, a group  that had hitherto remained unknown. The Kingdom of Valdemar is hoping to uncover more of this group in a punitive action to stop them as they were able to infiltrate deep into the court of Valdemar before they were discovered.

Regardless of the danger overhanging this expedition, this novel takes an easy, enjoyable pace as the characters travel north to their assignment and Jakyr performs his duties as Herald in various villages.

Because it is winter, they will stay in the caves created by the Hawkbrothers and hertasi and go on the Heralds Circuit with The Bastion as their staging ground. Their travels will radiate off in a roughly circular, wheel-like pattern from the caves.

We have terrific interplay among the assembled and Mags learns a lot about the skills a Herald needs—as well as the skills a young man needs to woo his lady.  Everyone learns and grows on this mission.

And at the end, Companions (the intelligent horse-like partners the Heralds have) and humans confront a flock of assassins determined to recapture Mags. Mags meet an unexpected (and wonderfully drawn) relative to aid in the final attack.

I love the Valdemar novels because even if there is tragedy, high drama, terror and possibly death, there is always hope and a resolution where kindness and safety win out. These are, for me, “cozy” fantasies. I am always assured of a happy, satisfying ending. ~~ Sue Martin

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