The Valdemar Reread

The Last Herald Mage: Hearth Fires

We’re in the last three chapters of Magic’s Promise. There’s a mystery to be solved, and, if you’re reading along, a rapidly dwindling number of pages in your right hand. There simply isn’t room left in the novel for the mystery to take a lot of twists and turns. Who did it? The piranha bats on the book cover seem an obvious suspect. Who brought in the bats? Hmm, does anyone here have scheming relatives? Tashir does!

According to the treaty that Elspeth the Peacemaker brokered between Baires and Lineas, if either ruling family dies out through pestilence or misadventure (rather than through assassination), the other inherits their throne. So all the royal family of Baires has to do is make sure Tashir gets blamed for his family being torn into hand-sized pieces, and they double their lands.

The real action here is in Vanyel’s relationships. Twelve year’s ago, Moondance told Vanyel that the loss of the great passion he shared with Tylendel was terrible, but that he can still warm himself at the hearth fires of his friends. Since then, Vanyel has been isolated by his personal notoriety, and by the hazards associated his Mage Gift. His closest friendships are with people whose children he has fathered. He’s not warming himself at any hearth fires—Vanyel is incredibly lonely. It’s not quite as obvious as it was when he was sixteen and having nightmares about ice, but it’s a strong theme in his life, and one that he desperately wants to change.

Between trips to Highjorune, Vanyel confers with Savil and Jervis, and they discover that Tashir has been lying about his family. He’s told Jervis a story about his parents and their relationship that completely contradicts the evidence that Vanyel has gathered, and the evidence of Tashir’s own behavior. This lie is not really surprising. It’s the kind of lie people tell because the truth is ugly and hard to explain and they’ve been told they won’t be believed. But Vanyel is furious about it, partly because Tashir interrupted Vanyel casting an illusion of Tylendel on Sovvan Night, and partly because Vanyel sees the lie as an attack on his fragile friendship with Jervis. You know. The friendship that grew out of an understanding of good intentions that Vanyel developed just a few days ago, roughly thirteen years after Jervis broke Van’s arm.

Vanyel will also make friends with Melenna. She finally approaches him with a frank offer of marriage, which Vanyel rejects. Melenna then asks Vanyel to keep an eye on Medren. She’s worried that, without a caring adult to look after him, Medren could fall in with a bad crowd in the big city of Haven. I love Melenna for this scene. Her attempts to use her sexual wiles on Vanyel in this book make her seem shallow (and she sometimes is), and her last conversation with Vanyel reframes her actions in terms of her efforts to find a way to make things better for her son. In the end, Vanyel finds a way to make things better for Melenna as well, by making her Tashir’s Castelaine. Vanyel appoints Jervis as Tashir’s Marshal. Inexplicably, Vanyel appoints Herald Lores to train Tashir in his Fetching Gift and teach him to be a Herald.

Vanyel’s lone remaining childhood nemesis is Father Leren. Leren has been, and will always be, an asshole. Withen’s increasing support for Vanyel, and his insistence on sheltering Tashir, put him at odds with his long-time priest, which is only one of the reasons that Leren stabs Vanyel. Leren also seems to have been acting as an agent of the royal family of Baires, which suggests that Valdemar’s northern border is at least as contentious as its southern one. Leren kills himself in his jail cell before we can learn more about this.

Vanyel got stabbed as he was Gating back to Forst Reach from the palace in Highjorune where he was dueling Tashir’s uncle. Vanyel still doesn’t deal well with Gate energy, and the combination of the stress and the gut wound nearly kill him. While he lies unconscious, he dreams of the Shadow Lover who gives him a choice between life and death. Vanyel is a Herald, so he chooses life and duty even though he knows that it will bring more pain and loss. But it’s not just duty—Vanyel also wants to live for his friends. Before he wakes up, the Shadow Lover brings Vanyel his friend Jaysen. In the final moments of the duel with Tashir’s uncle, the swarm of piranha bats was unleashed against Vanyel’s family. Most of them were safe because they didn’t have Mage Potential, or because they were already shielded. Jaysen was killed protecting Jisa. Jaysen says goodbye to Vanyel, and promises him that he won’t be alone.

Vanyel continues his pattern of withdrawing from people almost as soon as he wakes up, but we get to live in the glow of Jaysen’s promise until the next book. Tune in next week for the opening chapters of Magic’s Price!


Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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