Closer to Home Author: Mercedes Lackey Series: Herald Spy 1, A Novel of Valdemar Publisher: DAW, October 7, 2014 Format: Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages List Price: $25.95 (print) ISBN: 9780756408992 Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher
Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?
This was my first experience with Valdemar and Mercedes Lackey and it was not a disappointment. The characters are very well-established and have their own histories from previous adventures the author alludes to in this story. They were very accessible and as a first time reader, I did not feel that I had to do research on the Valdemar world to read this book. Newbies will get the gist of Gifts, Companions, and Chosen easily enough and seasoned Valdemar readers won’t be bored. Lackey truly owns Valdemar and it shows in her writing.
The story begins when Mags and Amily return from their previous adventure. They return as adults and are assigned adult responsibilities. All they really want is to be together, but they must go straight to work. Mags returns to the streets as a spy and is also given a persona as a nobleman to spy in higher circles. Amily is given a new job then a promotion but has plenty of people to help her. All the noble families are coming to the royal city to make marriage matches for their offspring at the Midwinter Festival. When trouble breaks out, it will take more than luck to save the kingdom from a bloodfeud.
You can feel Lackey's passion for her characters. I found that the writing is funny and entertaining and I enjoyed the different characters' perspectives. Mags and Amily are so different from each other and are working as a team, but in very different ways with different components. I never knew what would happen next. I was sold on the book when one of our heroes takes in orphans and doubly sold when the other gives a heartbroken girl books.
Another interesting thing about Closer to Home is that it tells a well-known story in a different way. I don’t want to spill the beans about exactly what story that is, but I think it is extremely well done and shows all the signs of a good writer. Lackey took this story and made it fit into her world and made it her own.