Reviewed by Holly White
Storm Breaking is the third book in Mercedes Lackey’s Mage Storms Trilogy, part of her ongoing series about the country of Valdemar. It follows the books Storm Warning, in which a mage storm, something unprecedented in anyone’s memories, attacked Valdemar and all the surrounding lands, and its sequel Storm Rising, in which they discovered that, after another series of smaller mage storms, yet another cataclysmic mage storm was coming, much worse this time. Storm Breaking opened with Karal in recovery from his first experience at being used as a mage channel, a channel through which mage energy and power to flow. Although Karal and the mages he helped were successful, they are now exhausted and weak, and still have not found or implemented a permanent solution.
Elspeth and Darkwind went to visit Tremane, in order to further cement the alliance with him. Tremane, who was already being called “king,” by some of the Hardorneans, was about to take the title officially, and with the full support of the people of Hardorn. But there was a condition. He would have to take the “earth-binding” oath, an ancient tradition that had not been invoked in centuries, by which he would pledge himself to the land of Hardorn, to protect it and not to do it harm. The earth-binding further ensured that he would be under a permanent “truth-spell,” unable to lie. The beleaguered Hardorneans were dubious about trusting a newcomer after everything they had been through under Ancar’s rule. They distrusted any newcomer, but especially someone from a conquering land such as The Empire. But with the earth-binding, they would accept as king this man who looked already out for their good.
Meanwhile, in The Empire, Emperor Charliss, who had named a new successor, Melles, was dying, and blamed Valdemar for not only the fact that he was dying, but also for the mage storms themselves. Melles sought only to build his own power while undermining Charliss. Melles used every devious means he could think of to steal the loyalty of the people from their dying Emperor, and get that loyalty for himself. But Charliss had an insidious plan that he had revealed to no one.
Karal returned to Haven, the capital of Valdemar, again as the envoy of Karse, to help the alliance try to find a way to defeat the mage storms and their unnatural effects. Just as they settled on a solid plan, Natoli, the girl with whom Karal is in love, was badly injured in an explosion. And just when their relationship might have been blossoming into something more than friendship, Karal was forced to go far away. He had to prepare to be used as a mage channel once more. So he left Natoli lying in the hospital, knowing that she understood that he must do his duty, and traveled to the far-off land of the Shinain people, along with all the mages that could be spared. There Karal worked with people of all sorts, Hawk Brothers (who bonded with birds), Gryphons, the lizard-like hertasi, horse-like Companions like Florian, and wolf-like historians who were there to write it all down for posterity, in case they succeeded and there WAS a posterity. They worked together to study the experiments and spells of an ancient mage, Urtho, and found powers that, if wielded, could cause extreme protection or extreme death. No one knew for sure which way they were intended to work. Everyone working there, especially the mages, and most especially Karal, faced the fact that even if they succeeded in protecting the land from the last cataclysmic mage storm, they may not live through it themselves.
Will Tremane take the earth-binding oath and become the true king of Hardorn? Will he find out he has more than one unexpected ally? Will Melles succeed in overruling Charliss’ Empire before he is even in his grave? Or will Charliss succeed with his most diabolical plan ever? Will Karal and the others find a way to protect the world, or will they die trying? And if they do protect the world, what will it cost them? And if they do survive, what kind of world will it be, if all magic is stripped away?
Find out by reading Storm Breaking by Mercedes Lackey. Any adult who loves good vs. evil stories, magic, and fantasy creatures and lands, will love this book. It’s well-written, well-characterized, and well-plotted. I’m looking forward to doing my next Valdemar book review, on Owlflight, the first in the Owl Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.