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The Hills Have Spies (Valdemar: Family Spies) Mass Market Paperback – June 4, 2019
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Mags, Herald Spy of Valdemar, and his wife, Amily, the King’s Own Herald, are happily married with three kids. The oldest, Peregrine, has the Gift of Animal Mindspeech—he can talk to animals and persuade them to act as he wishes. Perry's dream is to follow in his father's footsteps as a Herald Spy, but he has yet to be Chosen by a Companion.
Mags is more than happy to teach Perry all he knows. He regularly trains his children, including Perry, with tests and exercises, preparing them for the complicated and dangerous lives they will likely lead. Perry has already held positions in the Royal Palace as a runner and in the kitchen, useful places where he can learn to listen and collect information.
But there is growing rural unrest in a community on the border of Valdemar. A report filled with tales of strange disappearances and missing peddlers is sent to Haven by a Herald from the Pelagirs. To let Perry experience life away from home and out in the world, Mags proposes that his son accompany him on an expedition to discover what is really going on.
During their travels, Perry’s Animal Mindspeech allows him to communicate with the local wildlife of the Pelagirs, whose connection to the land aids in their investigation. But the details he gleans from the creatures only deepen the mystery. As Perry, Mags, and their animal companions draw closer to the heart of the danger, they must discover the truth behind the disappearances at the border—before those disappearances turn deadly.
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"Whether it’s the spellbinding world, the intrigue of the plot, or the simple yet remarkable narrative style – it is impossible to say which of these makes the story so good, but one thing is for sure: Closer to Home marks the beginning of another fantastic Lackey series." —RT Reviews
"With an unusually strong Gift that allows him to Mindspeak and Mindhear, Mags is perfectly suited for his role, and this sequel gives fans another opportunity to explore Lackey’s storied universe of Valdemar, one of the best-imagined fantasy universes in history." —Barnes & Noble Bookseller Picks
"Mags remains an engaging character, and makes a very capable spy/investigator...his adventures still make engrossing reading." —Locus
“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 (June 4, 2019)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0756413184
- ISBN-13 : 978-0756413187
- Item Weight : 6.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.19 x 0.9 x 6.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #139,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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First off, as others have said, the dust jacket is horrible. Not only does the plot description not match the book's contents, but the cover art is awful and makes no sense. The kid is fairly well done, but the kyree doesn't really match the descriptions in her previous books, and as for the Herald! Ghastly, and not really pertinent to the story. It took a second read-through before it was clear that the Herald on the cover was NOT Mags-- which actually was a good thing to find out, because it was VERY off-putting to see an old man with Mags' son and absolutely didn't match the chronology of the Herald Spy books. I won't spoil things, but even "guestimating" ages, there is no way that Mags would match the age of the cover Herald.
Secondly, the story. It wasn't *bad*, but not as good as I had expected. And, as at least one other reviewer mentioned, the "Scooby-Doo" aspect was incredibly tacky and almost had me tossing the book into the "read only if desperate" pile. The first instance was a genuine "wth??" moment and enough to kick my mind right out of the story. I was truly aghast that Ms. Lackey would turn an interesting, intelligent, non-human species into a bad joke.
Thirdly. Perry is an "almost but not quite" believable character-- he didn't really have the depth and well-rounded personality of other characters she has created. Also, even allowing for having a very strong Gift of Animal Mindspeech, it was as if Ms. Lackey tossed out all her notes on all her previously created species from her earlier books and decided it would be easier to just make all of them, regardless of their intelligence and her previous characterizations, sound identical to humans (well, except for the dogs-- their thoughts were pretty much as one would expect a dog to think). It seemed as if fast publication was given priority over crafting the story.
The best writers are those who can make a reader suspend their disbelief and accept the book's world as "true" while they are reading the story, and for the most part, Ms. Lackey does that extremely well. I cannot give this book 5 stars for the reasons I wrote above-- it had the potential to be an excellent and engaging tale, but fell short of Ms. Lackey's usual standard. And of course, there is the cover. So, 4 stars is what it gets: not good enough for a 5 star rating and not bad enough to get only 3 stars.
I have enjoyed Ms. Lackey's books very much over the years-- I still have my original copy of "Arrows of the Queen" (paperback, March 1987, that I bought new)-- and I reread all her Valdemar books in chronological order every couple of years just because they really are, for the most part, very good. I truly hope the next book returns to the quality her readers have loved over the years.
With that said, I very much enjoyed reading the book. There was good exploration of the struggles of parents and adolescents as they learn and grow together. The exploration of the feelings of a parent letting go and a child coming into their own is something to which every parent and child can relate. It may even help them understand or remember the other side of that experience. There was also a little bit of "don't tell your mother" that many parents can relate to. Mags has stayed true to character, becoming a more mature version of himself.
Perry is struggling with personally challenges and struggling to come into his own. He can be impetuous, but also learns from the consequences of his choices. This is balanced out by a logical side of him due to the training received from his father. He longs for the companionship that he sees between his father and Dallin but finds a friend and companion while on his journey.
As far as the overall story and plot it was enjoyable. However, I spent the last quarter of the book thinking that I would have to wait for the sequel for a resolution. (It should be noted I was working up to a tirade about being left in a cliffhanger.) But then, in just a few pages, everything came to a head and was resolved. The final resolution for an unexpected character was nice. I did enjoy meeting the King-Stag, Roya and learning more about the Dyhel. Larral is not as sardonic as some of the Kyree we have met in the past, but still is basically true to what we know; Perhaps he is just young.
I enjoy having this as my latest addition to my Valdemar collection. I have everything, except for the fan fiction anthologies. It was worth the wait, worth the read, and I look forward to the next chapter in both Valdemar and Family Spies.
Save your money and buy something interesting.
This ISN'T it.
Top reviews from other countries
The story is a real adventure story with the hero trying to find his feet and make sense of what is happening.
I think it would appeal to teenagers. It is a satisfactory mix of C S Lewis, Tolkien and Asimov and has a curious period feel about it .