Exile’s Honor: One of the best VALDEMAR novels

Exile’s Honor by Mercedes Lackey science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsExile’s Honor by Mercedes Lackey science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsExile’s Honor by Mercedes Lackey

Alberich had been an honorable, loyal, and effective officer in Karse’s army for many years until the day the Karsite sunpriests discovered that part of his success was due to the flashes of foresight he sometimes gets. When they attempted to burn him alive as a witch, Alberich was saved by a white horse that turned out to be one of the blue-eyed mind-speaking Companions of Valdemar, an enemy of Karse. Now Alberich is in Valdemar being trained as a Herald and, since he’s such a good fighter, he’s being groomed to be the Heralds’ next weapons master.

Alberich has a lot of adjusting to do because everything about Valdemar is different from Karse. It’s more comfortable, more tolerant, the government works better, and there is far more freedom and justice, even for Alberich, an immigrant who doesn’t speak the language well.

As Alberich continues to consider his new life and struggle with his divided loyalties, he is tested when a war breaks out between Valdemar and Karse. He loves the people on both sides of the conflict. He will have to figure out what honor requires of him, where he fits in this war, and what he can do to minimize the destruction of life on both sides. He will also think much about his religious beliefs and come to the realization that his god is not being well-represented by the priests who supposedly serve him.Exile’s Honor by Mercedes Lackey science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews

Exile’s Honor (2002) is the best VALDEMAR novel I’ve read so far. (I’ve read 16 of them.) In fact, it may be the best Lackey novel I’ve ever read. (I’ve read 29.) It is well-paced, with likeable characters, decent world-building, and an interesting plot.

Mercedes Lackey’s plots are never squeaky clean and there are some issues with this one. For example, it just doesn’t make sense that the heir to the throne would, very soon after Alberich’s arrival in Valdemar, choose him as her new body guard. I guess we could argue that Alberich’s Companion, who can see into his mind, would know if he has any bad intentions, but choosing him as bodyguard still seems like a plot device rather than a natural occurrence. It also seems to conflict with his role as weapons master and investigator (at night he tracks down criminals in Valdemar’s seedy areas). I don’t see how he can be doing all three jobs effectively.

In Exile’s Honor we witness some important events, especially on the battlefield. Fans of the series will not want to miss these historical milestones. We also learn more about the Companions — where they came from and what their role is.

I believe this is the only VALDEMAR novel (yet) in which a Companion has chosen an adult as a Herald, making Exile’s Honor unique. Another interesting tidbit is that there is a wonderful character named Myste who is a middle-aged Herald with bad eyesight that Alberich tries to teach to fight. She’s pretty worthless as a soldier, but she’s great at research and writing and she plays an important role in saving Valdemar. I’m assuming this character is an avatar of Mercedes Lackey herself (whose nickname is Misty) which I think is a nice touch. There are a few other bonuses for VALDEMAR fans in this novel, too.

Best of all is that Exile’s Honor is simply the best written of all the VALDEMAR novels I’ve read so far. The actual sentence structures are better (and I’m not talking about Alberich’s odd speech patterns that make him sound like Yoda) and the prose just flows. In fact, at several points while reading this novel, I felt like I was reading Lois McMaster Bujold. The story is also more thoughtful than usual, especially as Alberich thinks about honor, duty, and religion. I wonder if Lackey had a new editor?

In the comments to a recent review of a Lackey novel, I predicted that I’d never give one of her books more than 3.5 stars, but Exile’s Honor was such a marked improvement that I’m going to give it 4 stars. I was pleased with this read and look forward to more of Alberich’s adventures in Exile’s Valor.

The audio editions of the trilogy about Alberich are being produced by Tantor Audio and are narrated by Paul Woodson who gives a fabulous performance.

Published in 2002. Alberich had spent most of his youth in the Karsite military schools training to be an officer. As the son of an impoverished mother, he had no other career choice open to him. And Alberich had risen in the ranks with almost unnatural speed. He developed expertise with many weapons and excelled in academic subjects with an ease that was the envy of his classmates. But in fact, the reclusive Alberich studied long and hard, pushing himself ruthlessly. In battle, Alberich had always had a sort of “sixth sense” about things which were about to happen—when and from where the enemy would attack. Instinctively, he his this ability, for the Sunpriests kept careful watch for anyone exhibiting “demon powers” which were the hallmark of Karse’s greatest enemy—the witch-nation of Valdemar. Those they caught were “cleansed” in the fires of Vkandis Sunlord. Both Alberich’s skill and secret served him well in the army of Karse, and when Alberich became one of Karse’s youngest captains, he received a special gift—a powerful white stallion “liberated” from the enemy. But this honor was merely a distraction, for the Sunpriests had laid a trap which even Alberich’s strange foresight could not predict… Saved from burning as a witch when this odd white stallion braved flames and carried him over the border into Valdemar, he was healed by the same enemies he had been taught to hate his entire life. Though he knew he could never again return to his home, Alberich also knew he could never truly become a Valdemaran. How could Alberich remain true to his own people and still retain his honor while helping to train the direst enemy of Karse?

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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