The Valdemar Reread

The Last Herald Mage: Road Trip

When we left Vanyel last week, our hero was drugged to the teeth to keep him from destroying the city of Haven and himself before someone could teach him to shield out other people’s thoughts and control all of his many, suddenly-acquired powers.

Vanyel had also acquired a Companion, which implies that he will learn to control his Gifts and will serve the Kingdom of Valdemar. This is pretty daunting for someone whose previous major accomplishments in life were playing the lute and choosing a tunic to match his eyes.

Vanyel is still locked in emotional trench warfare, but chapters 11-14 of Magic’s Pawn take a step down in emotional intensity.

Savil has not been having a great time either. She’s grieving her own losses, and she doesn’t have the emotional or magical resources to do much more for Vanyel in Haven. She decides to take him to the Tayledras for healing and training. Lackey has mentioned the Tayledras and their powerful Mages, the Hawkbrothers, before. Savil taught Tylendel a few words of their language, which he taught to Vanyel. They live in the Pelagirs, which are located to Valdemar’s west. The direction is important, because Valdemar represents the western edge of civilization on Velgarth and travel to regions further west remains dangerous in Talia’s day, hundreds of years after Vanyel’s death. We’re in Act Three of this book, and we don’t have time for a dangerous journey across Valdemar’s wild frontier, so Healer Andrel sedates Vanyel, and Savil builds a Gate to k’Treva Vale. The next thing Vanyel notices is that he feels a lot better and the Hawkbrothers have taken his clothes.

Since the story has taken a step down in emotional intensity, I’m going to as well. Before we talk about Vanyel, his personal journey, and his efforts to find something to wear, we need to talk about Savil. Magic’s Pawn is a book that deals with the pain and passions of teenagers, so we don’t get a lot of insight into Savil’s personal life. But she DOES have one, and she leans into it as she braces herself to Gate to k’Treva Vale. She and Healer Andrel have been lovers, which sounds delightful and cozy, and which we already knew. What we didn’t know before chapter 11 is that Savil regards herself, Andrel and Herald Jaysen as sharing an intimate melding in which nothing is hidden.

The story of how Savil, Andrel, and Jaysen came to this place in their lives despite their assorted personal flaws is relevant to my interests. I would not be offended if it had a romantic subplot. I think it would have to—Savil is surrounded by romantic subplots. She is the Typhoid Mary of lifebonds. Practically everyone she knows has one; Vanyel and Tylendel’s lifebond was diagnosed by Savil’s other lifebonded students Mardic and Donni, and now Savil has taken Vanyel to her other lifebonded friends, Moondance and Starwind, who she introduced to each other. When Vanyel wakes up in k’Treva Vale, Moondance gets him a robe.

We don’t get a Talia-style training montage—the Hawkbrothers taught Vanyel the basics of controlling his powers while he was unconscious. Once he’s awake, he works with Starwind to master his abilities and overcome his reluctance to use them, but again, we don’t get a lot of details about how. We’re here to meet the Tayledras, who will play a role in a significant percentage of the next 27 books in the series. The Hawkbrothers seem to be really in touch with nature, but actually just live in trees. K’Treva Vale looks like a forest in a canyon, but is magically shielded and climate-controlled. Savil says the Hawkbrothers are like Heralds, but they serve the land while Heralds serve the people. This sets the stage for the next phase of Vanyel’s journey, in which he comes to terms with his phenomenal cosmic powers and with the dreams he has been having about his own death.

Vanyel’s most recent trauma involved being an accessory to murder. Consequently, he’s unwilling to use his powers offensively, which inhibits Starwind’s efforts to teach him to control them. In an effort to help him with this, Moondance tells Vanyel the story of how he killed his ex-lover with some lightning by accident before he met Starwind. I have no idea why Moondance thinks this would be comforting. Vanyel doesn’t either.

Vanyel is also having dreams about facing evil wizard Leareth on a mountain as his Companion carries Tylendel to safety. Even though Tylendel is already dead. In fear of himself and his responsibilities, Vanyel runs away from k’Treva. No one notices. They assume he’s taking some time to think, and before they can explore that further, there’s an emergency with some imported hypnotic lizard monsters and a local village. Seeing a lizard monster crush helpless peasants puts Vanyel’s issues about lightning and feeling trapped into perspective. Lightning is very good for frying lizards. Grateful peasants feed Vanyel dinner and don’t say anything mean about how he could have saved two more people if he’d shown up a little earlier.

With the lizard-swarm dispersed, Van joins his aunt and the Hawkbrothers to find the Mage responsible. Vanyel attempts to coordinate village defenses while the grown-ups hunt down the bad guy. Vanyel’s villagers attempt to protect him when Krebain the Mage shows up, but Vanyel can’t stand to see them tortured. Krebain is thrilled to see Vanyel, because this thing with the village in the Pelagirs is a personal project Krebain is pursuing between contracts for the Leshara, who you may recall as the family Tylendel’s family was feuding with. Krebain suggests that he could forego killing Vanyel in return for assistance building a kingdom in the Pelagirs and assorted sexual services. In an act of life-threatening desperation, Vanyel uses raw power from the magical node in the Hawkbrothers’ valley to obliterate him.

Long story short—Vanyel survives, and Savil makes him a Herald even though he still has a lot to learn, because he has a Herald’s caring heart.

What do you wish you knew about the Tayledras? What do you wish you knew about Savil’s love life? Tell me in the comments, and tune in next week for the opening chapters of Magic’s Promise!


Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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