Magic's Pawn

Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Pawn Cover

Magic's Pawn

Sable Aradia

This is one of my favourite fantasy novels. 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. "Magic's Pawn" is his origin story; how he became a Herald and a Mage, and why, which ultimately stems from issues created by his father's prejudices and a certain desperately loneliness that causes him to bond with someone who maybe didn't make all the best choices. There is a great deal of tragedy in this book.

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. But I love this one.

"Magic's Price" was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Science Fiction and Fantasy in 1990. This series is well worth sinking your teeth into.