Reviewed by Holly White
Foundation, the first of the Collegium Chronicles quintet, goes back in time in the Valdemar chronology, back to the very foundation of the Heraldic Collegium (hence the title). Foundation begins the story of Magpie aka Mags, a young orphaned boy forced to work as a slave in a gem mine. He and other orphans worked long hours with little food and no comforts, not even warm clothes during the harsh winters. His parents were killed during a raid on a bandit wagon when Mags had been a toddler. Mags survived and was taken in by Old Man Pieters, the owner of the mine. Pieters never failed to remind Mags that no one else would have taken him since, as the son of bandits, Mags was “bad blood;” therefore he was incapable of good, and deserving of any bad thing that happened to him. Old Man Pieters put him to work even at that young age, attaching rags to him so that he dusted the floor even as he crawled around on it. As he grew older, Mags had taken on increased responsibilities, working in the kitchen, at the sluices, and in the mines themselves. Once a year, the priest on circuit visited the mine to make sure that the orphan workers were well treated. On that day alone of all the year, Mags was fed well. Most of the children eventually either died from untreated illness or went mad. Some were killed or beaten literally senseless as punishment for various infractions. Mags, though, learned to do his work, keep his head down, and try his best not to be noticed.
Mags could not avoid being noticed, however, on the day the Herald Jakyr came to visit the mine with two Companions. Old Man Pieters tried his best to stop it, but nothing can stop a Companion on Search. Then Companion Dallen Chose Mags, and the whole world changed for him. Before long, men had cleaned him up, fed him well, and allowed him to sleep on an actual bed for the first time in his life. Jakyr asked him about his life up until now, and Mags told him, so that Herald Jakyr would rescue the other orphans from that situation. But Mags feared that when the Heralds confronted Old Man Pieters with his misdeeds, Pieters would find out that it was Mags who had been the informant. Mags had seen some of the punishments Pieters could inflict; what would he do to Mags if his whole operation were dismantled?
Soon, Jakyr took Mags to Haven, where the new Heraldic Collegium was being built. To Mags who had never seen so much as a village until this journey, the capital city of Haven was overwhelming. However, before they even arrived at the door of the building, Jakyr had to be off on an urgent mission, leaving Mags alone and friendless except for Dallen. Mags was then thrown into a world where he got to learn all day, eat delicious food at every mealtime, and spend his evenings blessedly alone in a warm bed with a room all to himself. He felt that he had arrived at the place the priests had always talked about, the place where good people went when they died. Even so, a lifetime of bad treatment made him instinctually distrust the intentions of everyone he met, in spite of Dallen’s reassurances that these people were good and trustworthy. So, while Mags enjoyed the new experiences, he feared to make friends other than Dallen. To make matters worse, sleeping on a warm bed did not prevent Mags from suffering nightly from horrible nightmares. Furthermore, when a group of foreigners came to Haven ostensibly to make an Alliance, but in reality to spy on Valdemar, and Mags got caught in the middle of that.
Would Mags ever learn to trust people and make friends? Would his rudimentary education be enough to catch up to the other Heraldic Trainees? Would Pieters find out it was Mags who snitched, and get revenge? Would Mags ever learn to trust other people enough to make friends? Would the nightmares ever stop? When the foreign spies made their move, would Mags survive it? Find out by reading Foundation by Mercedes Lackey.
If you love rags to riches stories, fantasy, and good vs. evil stories, this one will do your heart good. I have read Foundation before, but I still had places in it that made me cry for joy again. Mercedes Lackey knows how to make you really care about her characters. My next review will be Foundation’s sequel, Intrigues, the second in the Collegium Chronicles quintet.