As it happens, despite all the books to her credit, my only previous encounter with Mercedes Lackey was with Elemental Masters: Blood Red. I found that book to be an easy read and either despite of or because of the Red Riding Hood meets fantasy slayer inspiration I found it quite fun. I saw The Mage Storms as a way to gobble up some more of Lackey’s work.
The first problem is that these three books, all part of the Valdemar chronicles, are just one piece of an even larger collection. I think Storm Warning was first published over 20 years ago in 1994. I sensed that I was missing parts of the background when I was just a few pages into the book. Sure enough, the very first book Arrows of the Queen, was published nearly 10 years before that in 1987.
By no means did this discovery mean I had to put the book down. It just meant that I had to pay more attention to passing references to the complex world while sorting out what’s significant and need-to-know and what was there to add to the flavour. This isn’t uncommon, either, fantasy writers often like to drop you into a fully fleshed world but on this occasion, with a 800+ page omnibus in hand, I was hoping to have a complete set.
On the plus side – there’s no doubting that Mercedes Lackey is a pleasant and easy read. The phrase the comes to mind is wordsmith. She creates this land, or re-creates it, with ease. Scenes are vivid and characters come to life with each turn of the page. In The Mage Storms we start by following a wizard and cleric as the world around them begins to change.
Two rival nations, Valdemar and Karse, find themselves with a common enemy – the powerful and largely unknown Eastern Empire – starts to move against them both. The result is that enemies become cautious allies.
It is a slow start. Lackey spends a great deal of time letting you see inside the heads of characters. In one way this helps grapple with the size of the world as you zoon in to study a minute of thought. In another way, annoyingly, it messes with the tempo of the adventure. I could have done ramping up the drama earlier, spending more time there and less on the build up.
Crucially, the mage storms are interesting themselves and I wish we could have had more fun with them. What’s causing them? The strange Eastern Empire and its powerful wizard king? These storms bring earthquakes, blizzards, rain and even monsters to the world. This mystery needs to be understood.
The final twist in the introduction of a host of new characters towards the end. They’re not really new. These are characters, I suspect, from other books who need to appear in order to tie up some thread or complete some foreshadowing which a reader of The Mage Storms, someone starting the journey with these books, won’t get to appreciate.
I enjoyed The Mage Storms collection but not as much as I hoped I would. I suspect readers with more knowledge of the Valdemar series will enjoy them a bit more. I’m still keen to read other Lackey books but I’m a bit uncertain where to go with Valdemar now.
My copy of The Mage Storms was provided for review. Mercedes Lackey, Titan Books, £8.99.