Reviewed by Holly White
Brightly Burning is a stand-alone book in Mercedes Lackey’s ongoing Valdemar series. This book tells the story of Lavan Chitward, also known as Lavan Firestorm, a young man with the rare ability to control fire. Lavan had grown up in a country town, but his cloth merchant parents had recently moved to Haven, the capital of Valdemar. His parents never could understand why he showed no interest in learning the family business. They sent him to school, but there he found that older, stronger students bullied and oppressed the younger ones.
For a time, Lavan found a way to escape the bullies, but soon the day came when they cornered him. Surrounded, trapped, and angered at the injustice, young Lavan’s hitherto –undiscovered Gift manifested itself with no control, resulting in a fire and a tragedy. Lavan awoke several days later to find himself under the care of a Healer. But when men questioned him about the tragedy that had resulted in his injuries, Lavan found himself championed by someone no one, least of all him, had expected- a Companion named Kalira. In Valdemar, Companions are wise and magical horse-like beings who select a human as a permanent partner; the human Chosen then trains to be a Herald. Kalira not only Chose Lavan to be her Chosen and the newest Herald traninee, but she also defended Lavan against all accusers.
As Lavan began his training, he found that the rarity of his Gift meant it wasn’t often needed. The ongoing skirmishes on the southern border told Lavan, his mentors, and even the King, that Lavan’s Gift had manifested itself at this time, for this reason. Lavan would ultimately be expected to go to war, and to use his powers to help Valdemar win the war against Karse. In the meantime, however, Lavan had other concerns. Kalira and his mentor, Pol, worked with him daily so that he could learn to control his powers. His parents, instead of being proud of him for being Chosen, acted as if they were half-ashamed of him. And all the while, he remained oblivious to the fact that a young Healer named Elenor was developing feelings for him.
Would he ever realize and reciprocate Elenor’s feelings? Would he earn the respect of his parents? Would he gain control of his powers? Would the tragedy that he had unwittingly caused in his youth come back to bite him? Would he have to go to war? And if he did, would he be able to use his Gift to merely stop the enemy, or would he have to actually kill them as well? Find out by reading Brightly Burning.
Anyone 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 book review on another stand-alone book set in the land of Valdemar, Take a Thief by Mercedes Lackey, the story of a young pickpocket.