Magic's Promise

Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Promise Cover

Magic's Promise

Sable Aradia

This series is one of my favourite fantasy series. I re-read it every couple of years or so. I've read it now three times. I am reviewing it after all this time because I haven't done a review of it yet, and because the third book in the series, "Magic's Price," made a list of recommended, award-winning LGBTQ Speculative Fiction which I am working through as part of a reading challenge:

Mercedes Lackey (known fondly by her fans as "Misty") wrote this series with the conscious intent of featuring a gay hero. She wanted to prove that a protagonist could be not only be gay, but could have a lot of stereotypically "gay" behaviours and qualities (slight build, love of music, clothes' horse, some effeminate qualities) and still be an amazing and empathetic fantasy hero. In 1989 when "Magic's Pawn," the first book in this series was published, this was downright radical; overtly masculine "men's men" was the spec fic hero template of choice. And I think she succeeded admirably.

"The Last Herald-Mage of Valdemar" trilogy follows the story of Vanyel Ashkevron, born a mage and Chosen to become one of the Heralds of Valdemar, which is kind of a knightly order of psychics who form an empathic-telepathic bond with the Companions, a race of sentient horselike spiritual entities. In "Magic's Promise," dark magic in the neighbouring kingdom of Lineas forces Vanyel to confront great danger -- and some personal demons. It also sets up several other books in the Valdemar series (in other words, it all ties in later).

I am realistic enough to recognize its flaws. If you prefer books that are more about the action than the emotions, you will not enjoy Mercedes Lackey. Sometimes she doesn't describe the action at all and she leaves it in the background, because that's not the story she wants to tell. And she can be melodramatic in places. I am not an unmitigated fan of her work. I find many of the Valdemar books downright boring. This is my least favourite of the "Last Herald-Mage" series in that it is the least personal. I liked it, but not nearly as much as I liked the other two.

"Magic's Price" was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Science Fiction and Fantasy in 1990. I am certain that if the climate was not still so anti-queer in 1990 I am certain it would have won many more awards. The series is well worth reading.