Top positive review
Good start to a decent series
Reviewed in the United States on July 14, 2014
I recently read Mercedes Lackey's five-volume series "The Collegium Chronicles." The books, in order, are:
Here, why don't I jot down a few words about the entire series, and not just the first book (no plot spoilers).
Lackey is perhaps best known for her long-running series about the fantasy kingdom Valdemar, and this set of five books are her most recent addition to the saga. The Valdemar books overall don't have to be read in any particular order; the series is made up of both sets of books (usually trilogies) and individual titles that are semi-independent of one another. However, it perhaps makes the most sense to read the stories in chronological order according to the history of the kingdom. The Collegium Chronicles , while the most recently written about Valdemar, take place fairly early in the history of the country.
It's been quite some time since I visited Valdemar, and I was quite happy to go back again. I've enjoyed the previous stories I've read very much, and had been thinking of doing a complete reading of the entire series in chronological order, so I had no problem in jumping in with these, since they detail an earlier portion of the country's time-line.
And---in general, I found the books to be quite enjoyable. I liked the main character and found his adventures to be quite interesting. While reviews for the series were mixed, this was in large part due to the leisurely pace of the stories, with unfinished plot points left hanging at the end of each of the first four volumes. Since these were published at a rate of about one book per year, some readers were very frustrated about all these loose ends regarding the primary plot, which dealt with the mystery of where Mags came from, who he was, and why strangers were hunting him down.
However, since I had the entire stack of books at hand, this wasn't an issue for me---as soon as I finished one I was able to jump right into the next.
Now, Lackey does have quite a knack for getting into her characters' heads, and imagining in complete detail the running commentary that fills their minds as they go about their daily tasks. In one sense this is a plus---we really get to see how these characters think. Problem is---she writes it all down, whether it has anything to do with advancing the plot or not! And this does tend to pad out her books to a certain degree.
I love the stories and fantasy realms Mercedes comes up with---I can only wish I had such an imagination. But I think she suffers from the same problem as a number of other very popular and prolific authors, in that her publisher doesn't seem to edit her any more, and as a result there's a LOT in her books that could be trimmed to make for a much tighter story.
Oh, I don't mind getting a moderate amount of unnecessary detail---I enjoy losing myself in these fantasy worlds. But I do have to admit that when we're talking about the mechanics of quality, first-rate writing, her books would be better with a strong editor at the helm.
For instance---in one of these books, there was a passage written about how the villains were able to hide their wagon from the eyes of the good guys. The description went on in detail for an entire page, but---we simply don't need to know this! It had nothing to do with the plot---just two or three sentences about this would have been quite sufficient.
Now---while each book was of a reasonable length, averaging out to 330 pages or so, all together this story did NOT need five volumes to be told. The text could have been edited and tightened down to four volumes. Heck, the complete tale could probably even have been knocked down to three 400-page books.
So, that is my primary reservation about the stories. But on the other hand, I enjoyed them despite problems in pacing, so I'll happily recommend these for those who enjoy Mercedes' work. There are still a lot of Valdemar books I haven't read yet, and I fully intend to continue on with the series.