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WesternSFA
Closer to Home
by Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books, $25.95, 361pp
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
In Valdemar, blue-eyed Companions -- highly intelligent magical creatures who look like (but are not) horses -- choose the Herald to which they’re bound for life to work with and protect.   Heralds Amily and Mags are returning to Haven, a kingdom of Valdemar from a year-long mission with Mags’ Companion, Dallen.  All three are happy to be home and Mags is nervous about asking Amily’s father, Nikolas (the King’s Own Herald, a veteran spy for the Kingdom, and Mags’ mentor), for Amily’s hand.  Suddenly their lives are turned upside down.

Nikolas is knocked off a bridge over the icy river and drowns.  At the moment he dies, Rolan, Nikolas’ Companion, chooses Amily and she becomes the King’s Own Herald in her father’s place.  Dallen and Mags are racing the icy rushing waters and pull Nikolas to shore where Mags gives him CPR until Nikolas is resuscitated.  Even though Nikolas was saved, since his daughter is now Chosen, none of the ensuing events can be undone.  

While Amily is receiving her training and performing her new duties as King’s Own, we explore the alter-egos of Mags the Herald:  Harkins the protector, and Magnus the King’s Spy.  As Harkins, Mags (himself an orphaned child who endured cold, starvation, and beatings before being found and trained as a Herald), rescues orphaned children, gives them a home, a house mother, warm clothes, food, education, and jobs as his eyes and ears beyond the palace.  As Magnus, Mags is assigned to keep young men out of trouble during Midwinter Fair and social parties where the elite put out their daughters for arranged marriages.   Throw in a many-generations feud between two visiting families -- and a bit of Romeo and Juliet -- and the town becomes a powder keg ready to blow.  Mags and Amily are thrown right in the middle to attempt to allay this dangerous situation. 

This is Book One of the Herald Spy series, a thoroughly enjoyable, skillfully-written suspense fantasy which continues the tale of many of the familiar characters of The Collegium Chronicles.  ~~  Marie Davis

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