Foundation: Lackey has written this book better

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Mercedes Lackey Valdemar FoundationFoundation by Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey has written this book before. And she’s written it better before. Foundation follows the story of Mags, a plucky orphan who is rescued from an abusive situation as a slave in a mine by a Companion and brought to Haven to become a Herald. Substitute Talia for Mags, and Holder for mine, and you have just summed up Lackey’s first book, Arrows of the Queen. The problem is that Foundation isn’t nearly as good.

Foundation is the start of a new trilogy set in Valdemar, Lackey’s favorite story world. The characters are retreads of old familiar faces, and the pacing is erratic. Lackey is obviously writing a trilogy, because the story just stops abruptly with little resolution. I have no problem with books being designed as trilogies with an overarching metanarrative, but I do like each book being able to stand independently within the trilogy framework and this book does not. The mystery Mags is called upon to uncover is laughably easy to reveal, and the big climax at the end feels tacked on to finish the story with some type of fight scene, rather than growing organically from the plot. It felt like driving along at 45 miles an hour and then hitting a brick wall that appeared out of nowhere.

I know writers all have their own style, but I was disappointed with how much Lackey plagiarized her previous work. From borrowing phrases (do bad riders do anything other than sit like a sack of grain?) to entire characters, Lackey is ripping off Arrows of the Queen to a disturbing degree. Mags has the same personality traits that Talia does, down to an unexpected skill at horsemanship and defensive fighting, befriends an important female highborn character while she is crying about a lost friend, has an unusually strong Gift, discovers an important circle of friends during the Midwinter Festival, and becomes a trusted confidant of high ranking Heralds while still a student. I don’t know if her editor has never read her books before, but this was a patent retread of previous work.

The story is barely adequate on its own merits. If I had never read any of her previous writing before, it would have been a passable story, though flawed in its own rights. Few of the characters are given enough time to develop into memorable personalities on their own. I spent half of the final fight scene trying to remember who one of the characters was.

If this was my first exposure to Lackey, I wouldn’t be reading anything by her again. As a long time reader, I am sorely disappointed, and can only hope that the next entry in this series fixes the extraordinary flaws of the first. But I’ll be checking the next one out of the library rather than buying my own copy.


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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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4 comments

  1. David H. /

    Oof, it’s not a trilogy, it’s a 5-book series–followed by a sequel series that continues Mags’ storyline. It doesn’t get any better.

    • In fairness, Ruth (who’s retired as a FanLit reviewer now and isn’t around to defend herself) wrote this review in 2008, when this first book was published. It might have been marketed originally as a trilogy; the 4th book wasn’t published until 2012. But thank you for mentioning all of the additional books in the series available now! Mercedes Lackey has been hit-and-miss for me personally, but I’ve really enjoyed some of her Valdemar stories.

      • David H. /

        Thanks–I realized after the fact that I was responding to an old review that the Twitter feed was posting recently, haha!

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