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Closer to the Heart (Valdemar: The Herald Spy) Mass Market Paperback – October 4, 2016
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Herald Mags, Valdemar’s first official Herald Spy, is well on his way to establishing a coterie of young informants, not only on the streets of Haven, but in the kitchens and Great Halls of the highborn and wealthy as well.
The newly appointed King’s Own Herald, Amily, although still unsure of her own capability in that office, is doing fine work to support the efforts of Mags, her betrothed. She has even found a way to build an army of informants herself, a group of highly trained but impoverished young noblewomen groomed to serve the highborn ladies who live at Court, to be called “The Queens’s Handmaidens.”
And King Kyril has come up with the grand plan of turning Mags and Amily’s wedding into a low-key diplomatic event that will simultaneously entertain everyone on the Hill and allow him to negotiate behind the scenes with all the attending ambassadors―something which had not been possible at his son Prince Sedric’s wedding.
What could possibly go wrong?
The answer, of course, is “everything.”
For all is not well in the neighboring Kingdom of Menmellith. The new king is a child, and a pretender to the throne has raised a rebel army. And this army is―purportedly―being supplied with arms by Valdemar. The Menmellith Regency Council threatens war. With the help of a ragtag band of their unlikely associates, Mags and Amily will have to determine the real culprit, amass the evidence to convince the Council, and prevent a war nobody wants―
―and, somewhere along the way, get married.
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“Thanks to court intrigues and an attempt by foreign infiltrators to trick Valdemar to its disadvantage, Lackey makes a real page-turner out of Mags’ and the collegia’s development.” ―Booklist
“For fans of her work, the return to the land of Valdemar and the continued tale of treasured characters will not disappoint―and new readers are likely to become devoted fans. Lackey has a playful writing style that is easy to become engrossed in.” ―RT Book Reviews
“Returning to her beloved Valdemar universe, Lackey opens her new series at a pivotal time in the history of Valdemar.... Series fans will enjoy the variations on a familiar theme, while enough information is presented for first-timers to discover a world of high adventure and individual courage. Highly recommended.” ―Library Journal
“Lackey has effortlessly returned us to the wondrous realm of Valdemar.” ―Night Owl Reviews
“As always, she tells an entertaining and enjoyable tale of Valdemar with characters we love and a world we’ll always want to visit.” ―Pop Culture Beast
“Closer to the Heart has the two things that have always made me love these books: a richly detailed history of the world, and beautiful writing.” —The Arched Doorway
About the Author
- Publisher : DAW (October 4, 2016)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0756411297
- ISBN-13 : 978-0756411299
- Item Weight : 6.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.13 x 0.97 x 6.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #140,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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This is really a book of growth for both Mags and Amily as they navigate their still new roles as Heralds. And, of course, there is no end to the conflict and intrigue they need to work through! I love the way Lackey handles conflict in these books. Yes, there is the overall conflict within the plot, but there is always some kind of moral conflict as well.
For the storyline, there is the discovered existence of a rebel faction, weapons being siphoned away in a futile attempt to overthrow Valdemar. Personally, there is the moral issue of excess. Mags is hyper aware of how little some people have, after his time as a mine slave. There are so many, even in Haven, with so little, and it has become his mission to help alleviate that whenever he can.
Amily, too, is continuing to grow. Learning from her father and Mags, she has begun to create her own network of eyes and ears, those of the Handmaidens to the nobles of Haven.
All in all, I love this addtion to the Valdemar saga!
Let me start out by describing a little of what goes on in Closer to the Heart, which is book 2 in Mercedes Lackey’s Herald Spy series, since the blurb says more about the series and virtually nothing about what goes on in this installment.
Newly engaged couple Herald Mags and King’s Own Herald Amily have found their wedding plans hijacked by the Crown, which fully intends to capitalize on it and turn it into so much political and diplomatic fanfare. But things must be postponed as a plot is uncovered that could potentially bring Valdemar into war with its politically unstable neighbor, Hardorn. While Amily must do her best to diffuse the situation from the capital, Mags is sent out to mine country—the first time he’s returned here since being rescued from child slavery—to ferret out possible conspirators.
There are many things I like about this book. The first was that I believe it’s the first novel of Valdemar that tracks a Heraldic couple from both points of view. Sure, we’ve seen couples in the past, notably Herald-Princess Elspeth and her Hawkbrother mate Darkwind, but most of their story didn’t take place in Valdemar itself, and Darkwind is not a Herald, and while there’s also the couple made up by Queen’s Own Herald Talia and Herald Dirk, their love story comes quite late in their dedicated series. So I was keen on seeing the rhythm Amily and Mags would find as a couple, with the weight of their duties resting so heavily on both their shoulders.
The second is that this brought Mags back to Valdemar’s mine country, which he hadn’t really visited since he was rescued child from slavery at a mine in the very first book of the Collegium Chronicles, Foundation. Here, I think, is a bit of a reward for fans. If you’ve followed these books from the beginning as I have, you’ll appreciate the difference between the mine Mags was saved from and the one he visits in this story, and while I felt like Lackey may have underwritten the emotional impact of these contrasts, I also felt like I could gather a lot about what she didn’t say. It also made me curious as to how it would affect Mags’ outlook once all the current stresses were over and done with.
The third is learning more about the spy network in Valdemar. I really enjoyed how this was treated in the two books about arms master Herald Alberich as well as in the earlier books on Mags’ life, but this volume really gets into the nitty gritty of it, which I liked. And there was a return to that favored warsport, Kirball! In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t share details, but if you enjoyed the way Lackey wrote about the games in the Collegium Chronicles, you’ll enjoy this one.
I guess the only thing that kept me from giving this read a five-star rating is that it didn’t seem quite as action-packed as the previous novel. Not that it felt like an unnecessary series filler—don’t get me wrong on this point. It very much felt like Lackey was establishing some of the calm before the storm, so while I wasn’t quite as engaged as I have been in some of her other books, I can see how it would work in the rhythm of a four- or five-book series, which I’m hoping this will be. I’m also looking forward to seeing how she amps up the action and the intrigue in the novels to come. So while Closer to the Heart isn’t a full five stars, it’s definitely very solidly a four.