Reviewed by Holly White
Closer to Home is the first in Mercedes Lackey’s Herald Spy series. The first book takes up where we left off with the story of Mags, the young mine-slave-turned Herald-Trainee. If you want to know more about Mags childhood and youth, read the Collegium Chronicles quintet by Mercedes Lackey; his childhood and youth are described there in detail. In Closer to Home, the story begins with Mags’ adult life as Mags at last receives the title of full Herald, no longer a Trainee. As the series title suggests, his primary task as a Herald will be to also be a spy for the Kingdom of Valdemar.
Mags and Amily return from circuit to face Amily’s father, Nikolas, with the fact that they are hoping to get married. They fear he will disapprove on many levels. This fear is exacerbated by that fact that Nikolas is the King’s Own Herald, the most important Herald in Valdemar other than the King himself, and has not only his own wishes and opinions to consider, but also those of the King, the court, and the country.
Soon after their return, however, tragedy strikes. Nikolas is killed in a terrible storm. His Companion, Rolan, who is always the Companion of the King’s Own Herald, must choose a new King’s Own immediately, and indeed, does so right at the moment of Nikolas’ death. Mags is heartbroken; his mentor and hopefully future father-in-law was dead. Amily would never forgive him for not being able to revive him in time. But then something unprecedented happened, something so unheard of, that no one, not even the King himself, knew how to take it. And Mags, filled with pent-up emotions from the trying day he had already had, had to be the one to stride into the throne room and talk some sense into King and court.
After all this was over, things settled down into a more or less routine. Mags had his spy responsibilities; Amily had new responsibilities of her own. One of those responsibilities was to prevent an all-out civil war from breaking out. Two feuding families had come into the capital city of Haven to find spouses for their grown children. The feud was so bitter that whenever the patriarchs, their families, or even their servants crossed paths with the other, there was bound to be trouble. The king had specifically stated that he did not want there to be trouble. This meant that Mags and Amily had the job of keeping the two families apart if possible, and barring that, to at least ensure that peace was maintained.
This plan worked well until unexpectedly, the daughter of one family fell in love with the son of the other family. Thus began a series of secret notes, masked balls, and clandestine meetings, which at first made me feel as if Ms. Lackey were going to do a bland remake of Romeo and Juliet. But I knew her writing better than that, so I read on. I was not disappointed. The story turned out quite differently from Romeo and Juliet, but to find out just how differently, you must read Closer to Home for yourself.
It’s a wonderful tale of good vs. evil, spies, intrigue, romance, and adventure. If you like that sort of story, you will love Closer to Home. This will be my last Valdemar review for a while, at least until Ms. Lackey puts out another book set in the Valdemar universe. I understand she has one coming out in October 2015, called Closer to the Heart, which I await anxiously so I can find out what happens next.