cover image Beyond


Mercedes Lackey. DAW, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7564-1733-8

Bestseller Lackey underwhelms in the half-baked first installment of her Founding of Valdemar series, which returns to the sprawling world first visited in 1987’s Arrows of the Queen. Duke Kordas of Valdemar and most of his constituents prepare to escape the reach of the hostile Empire, a scheme that started with Kordas’s father. But as Kordas’s mages put the finishing touches on their escape plan, the Emperor summons Kordas to the Imperial City to deliver a parcel of tribute horses. While there, he discovers an atrocity committed against the vrondi, air elementals whose mistreatment has been carefully hidden by the Emperor. Lackey’s world is richly drawn and the magic system behind the inter-Empire travel is ingenious, but as Kordas recalibrates his plan to take on the Empire’s wrongdoings and free the vrondi, he faces such feeble obstacles that the whole thing feels a tad too easy. The Emperor is a one-dimensional villain whose incompetence poses no real threat to Kordas’s mission, and with Kordas’s victory all but assured, the tension drains from the story. Lackey’s fans will be pleased to return to Valdemar, but will hope for higher stakes in the series to come. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh. (June)