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WesternSFA


Beyond
The Founding of Valdemar Book One
by Mercedes Lackey
DAW, $28.00, 368pp
Published: June 2021

The long-awaited founding of Valdemar comes to life in this new series from a New York Times bestselling author and beloved fantasist.

Within the Eastern Empire, Duke Kordas Valdemar rules a tiny, bucolic Duchy that focuses mostly on horse breeding. Anticipating the day when the Empire's exploitative and militant leaders would not be content to leave them alone, Korda's father set out to gather magicians in the hopes of one day finding a way to escape and protect the people of the Duchy from tyranny.

Kordas has lived his life looking over his shoulder. The signs in the Empire are increasingly dire. Under the direction of the Emperor, mages have begun to harness the power of dark magics; including blood magic, the powers of the Abyssal Planes, and the binding and "milking" of Elemental creatures.

But then one of the Duchy's mages has a breakthrough. There is a way to place a Gate at a distance so far from the Empire that it is unlikely the Emperor can find or follow them as they evacuate everyone that is willing to leave.

But time is running out, and Kordas has been summoned to the Emperor's Court.

Can his reputation as a country bumpkin and his acting skills buy him and his people the time they need to flee?  Or will the Emperor lose patience, invade to strip Valdemar of everything of worth, and send its conscripted people into the front lines of the Imperial wars?

If, like me, you are a longtime fan of the Valdemar series, this is a book you've likely anticipated for a long time. This is the book of the founding of Valdemar, of the very beginnings of the whole world that Lackey has created and many fans have asked for it for years. The question is, does it live up to those expectations?  For me, it was everything I wanted and yet, nothing like what I expected but in a good way; because it had so many surprises that tell readers more about the world and give us such an intriguing beginning to a whole new series.

"Beyond" features entirely new characters who exhibit some of the same traits that are much the reasons I've always loved Mercedes Lackey's characters. They are kind, caring, and intelligent but not perfect, characters that are flawed and yet never give up, struggling to find ways to solve problems to help more than just themselves. With humor and wit, the main characters, Kordas, his wife, and the magicians aiding him, all come to life. And while the bulk of the story is Kordas, the other characters are not without their own impetus and importance, especially the slaves the Empire has created to serve them.

Beyond the characters, the world building is impeccable. It is easy to envision how this earlier kingdom leads to the future that is Valdemar and the world we are first introduced to in “The Arrows of the Queen.” The tenets and beliefs of the characters within the Empire are shown as the root from what will become the world most fans know. And even though it is obvious that the story does not entirely answer all questions, the book does provide the beginnings of all the rest. The world is detailed and well-thought-out, including the excesses of the rich and dangerous magics that the Empire uses, all of which is reminiscent of the very powerful among our modern society.

If I have a question, it would be: will we get more? To me, familiar with the construction of previous novels, I believe this is just the first book in a new series but for newer fans, they may feel that the story is incomplete. The ending does have a satisfactory conclusion; but it does keep some things open-ended to allow for the actual founding. This only shows us if Kordas escapes the Empire and how the Empire ends, which is not a spoiler for anyone familiar with the entire series.  It is the beginning and I can't wait for more.

If you are a fan of the Valdemar series and Mercedes Lackey, this book is a must read. Newer fans may not be familiar with the entire series but won't need to in order to enjoy the book. But if you are familiar, there are hints on how Valdemar begins after the Empire as well as clues to other secrets. Pay attention and you may have guesses for answers you didn't think you'd ever get. I know I am incredibly excited about this series.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Vrondi ~~ Andrea Rittschoff

For more titles by Mercedes Lackey click here

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