Kathryn's Reviews > Magic's Promise

Magic's Promise by Mercedes Lackey
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's review
Mar 22, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, guilty-pleasures
Read in January, 2001

This one was probably the weakest of the entire trilogy; it's set twelve years after Pawn. Since the end of book one, Valdemar has become involved in a war with Karse, it's Southern-most neighbor. We never get told why, who started it, or anything else. It's just a fact that there's a war going on, and Vanyel is a key part in it. His powers make him an invaluable tool, and he gets used almost to his breaking point until he finally is given leave.

Vanyel decides to go visit his family instead of staying in Haven with Savil; by now they have a very close relationship. He's afraid that if he stays in Haven, it will be easier for those in charge to send him back in the field if some crisis emerges, but if he's visiting his family on their remote holding, he'll be less likely to be recalled unless there's a truly dire emergency.

Needless to say, Vanyel doesn't have a very healthy or close relationship with his family. By now they all know he's gay, but because of his powerful position in the Court (as well as his magical abilities) they don't shun him like they might have if he was still "normal". They pretty much ignore that part of his life, except for his mother, who is constantly introducing young women to him in the hopes of effecting a cure.

While he's home, he hears a magical cry for help from across the Western border. He responds of course, and stumbles onto a grisley crime scene: all of the occupants of the neigboring kingdom's royal palace have been slaughtered, literally torn to pieces, except one: Prince Tashir, who was recently disinherited by his father because of rumors that he was a bastard. Tashir has the Gift of Fetching, and since the people of the kingdom are suspicious of magic, and since he's the only survivor and has a motive, he's also the only suspect. BUT, when Vanyel arrives, he discovers that Tashir has been Chosen, so it's clear that he couldn't have been responsible for the carnage, because Companions only Choose Good people.

You can see where this is going. There are actually several sub plots going on, but giving out details about them is also giving out spoilers, so I'll leave them for you to discover, if you choose. There's more Angst, of course, because it couldn't have Misty's name on it if it have Angst. But I still love it, although it's not my favorite of the trilogy.

The Review: In this book we learn a lot about how magic works, what it can and can't do. I think that Misty has created the most unique and detailed magic system I've ever read, frankly. First, there's a distinction between "true" magic (abra cadabra and all that) and "mind" magic (reading people's thoughts, moving objects with the mind). I like all those technical details, oddly enough.

One thing that really irritates me about this book is: why is there a war going on? I didn't pay attention to that detail at first, because throughout the Valdemar series, Valdemar and Karse are pretty much always fighting, but since there was no mention of a war going on in Pawn, then it's pretty obvious that the problems started in Vanyel's lifetime. So what event, specifically, started it? I would think that Misty would take the time to answer that question, definatively.

Another flaw is that the story tends to drag. The Tashir incident happens until almost halfway through the book. I think what Misty wanted to do here is really focus on Vanyel and how he deals with his warped relationships, but something in the way of action had to happen, so she came up with having Vanyel solve a murder mystery. It really does seem rather incidental. But then, I like the whole dealing-with-relationships part better than the murder mystery part, anyway, so it doesn't really bother me except in a vague sense of feeling disappointed because Misty got a little sloppy.
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