Read again? Yes
Fifth book of Valdemar, with 21 more. Second in the "Last Herald Mage" trilogy.
It's been 12 years since the end of "Magic's Pawn" (could be called "Magic's Pwned," for that matter, given how asswhipped the boy was). Vanyel Ashkevron is 27, and the most powerful Herald-Mage in the realm--the most powerful Herald-Mage ever. He's just come back from a year-long tour of duty along the southern borderlands of Valdemar, dealing with incursions from Karse. He's gotten quite a reputation by now as a bad-ass. Ordinary people--and even other Heralds--fear him. Songs are written about him. 'Demonsbane,' some call him, and Shadowstalker, and the Hero of Stony Tor. But now Vanyel faces a horror greater than all the demons and mages of Karse combined.
It's long past time for a well-earned vacation--and for him to visit his family. For several weeks, if not longer.
It is well-known that he's gay, but he knows his mother will still throw eligible women at him, hoping one will stick. His father will watch to see if Vanyel tries to seduce any of the boys or sheep. The family priest will scold everyone about proper manly behavior. The Armsmaster who used to beat the snot out of him trying to make a "man" out of him will try to pick fights.
It'll be just like old times!
But Vanyel quickly finds himself in the middle of a feud between the Mavelan and the Remoerdis clans. Everything hinges upon the guilt or innocence of one small boy, Tashir, whose entire family was torn to shreds by evil magic.
This is probably my favorite of the trilogy. Vanyel's no longer the snot-nosed teenager of the first book, and there are some truly touching scenes in which he at least makes peace with some personal demons from back home. That bullying Armsmaster turns out to be an okay Joe, and Vanyel makes serious inroads towards peace with his parents.
My favorite scene has him mind-screwing the family priest, who has never liked him. Father Leren starts in on him, implying something between Van and a young boy. Vanyel plays the gay card, lisping and all: "He is a sweet child, don't you think? But still, a child. Not company. ...I prefer my companions to be--somewhat older." (takes a step meaningfully toward the priest). "More masterly. Commanding. Now someone like you, dear Leren--" The priest runs away. Bahahahaha!! I love it. Even better, that preacher-boy's uppance does come--twice.
As with the previous book in the trilogy, the Lackey style isn't as irritating as in later works. Keeping in mind that Lackey didn't write the series in chronological order, we'll see if the books become more or less annoying as I get to the newer stuff.
Still, there's one bit I need to rant about. The Heralds have a thing called "Truth Spell" which can be used to detect falsehood or force the subject to speak the truth. I'm cool with that, but not with her weak explanation of the basic spell:
"Vanyel set in motion the spell that called the vrondi, the mindless air elemental that could not abide the emotional emanations associated with falsehood."
Wow, what a prissy-sounding bit of word salad. This feels almost as clumsy as Luca$' "midiclorians" rationalization for the Force. Here's this critter that exists on a different plane of reality from ours, and it'll come to you if you feed it a little magic, but it cannot abide falsehood. Is that any falsehood, or just human falsehood? Does it get equally unabiding of little white lies versus "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"? Eh. I just don't like it. I mean, are there other air elementals out there that can't abide the emotional emanations of anger? Grief? Happiness? Sexual arousal? Wait, those last two are just fundies.
Hell, if we could get a few falsehood vrondi and some that cannot abide the emotional emanations of child-molesters, we could wipe out the Vatican and the Preachercrats in the Republican party all in one sweep.
It's Mercedes Lackey, so of course there's Nickname Watch. I'm not going to list those from the previous book, just new ones:
Randale (King of Valdemar): Randi (no, he's not Amazing)
Tantras (a Herald): Tran
Yfandes (Vanyel's Companion): 'Fandes
Radevel (a cousin): Rad (was Radev in the previous book)
Melenna (girl who's hot for Vanyel): 'Lenna