Dear Mercedes Lackey,
I’m writing to you as a lifelong fan. Your Valdemar books are what started me reading fantasy. Some twenty-plus years later, By The Sword is still one of my favorite comfort reads. I considered naming a daughter Talia. So please don’t think I’m just a hater when I say: please stop writing Valdemar books.
Valdemar used to be a place of excitement. Everything was new. Heralds were wonderful. Companions were amazing. Every new book was an adventure. Now, some thirty-odd books into the series, you have run out of interesting stories to tell in this setting, and have started recycling your old stories by changing the names. Now, I’m sure you could make the argument that setting these stories in different time periods and just changing the character names is making a point about how all history is a repetition of things that have previously happened, and there is nothing new and original out there, but I don’t think that’s what you’re doing. Because at this point, you’re not only recycling your own work (see my review for the first book in this Collegium Chronicles series); your ecologically friendly writing style is extending to other authors as well.
Evidence to back up that audacious claim, you ask? Your story is about a young orphan whose parents were killed violently, who gets chosen to go to magic school. He has two best friends, a girl and a boy, who are falling in love with each other. The girl is brilliant but moody and tends to periods of sulking when her feelings are hurt. The boy is big and kind of a doofus, but loyal to his friends, and comes from a long line of magically gifted people himself, even though he doesn’t seem to have the same power as his family members.
Now, they are all at the school together, and there is a new sport invented that involves getting a ball through any one of a number of goals at one end, which people guard with bat-like clubs. The main boy is extraordinarily talented at this game, and in his first match captures the flag, which is worth a lot more points than any goal and automatically ends the game.
Then, even though he’s only in his first year of training, he’s entrusted with special missions, given leeway no one else is, and is a favorite of the people running the school. Additionally, he figures out who the bad guy is and faces him down and defeats him all by himself, even though people who have been trained for decades can’t figure it out.
What book am I describing? Harry Potter (basically any of the seven) or Intrigues?
They are that similar. And that’s not a good sign. I’ve read your letter about plagiarism on your site, and I’m not going to say this is plagiarism, but there is not enough of a variation here to make me feel like I was reading something new. And I wouldn’t care so much except you’re a good writer. Did you see the review I just gave your Trio of Sorcery (below)? You’re better than this. Stop coming back to this old, worn out world when Jennifer Talldeer and Ellen McBridge are just waiting for new opportunities to shine. And I know you can make them shine. Even in this clunker of a story, there are flashes of brilliance. That fight between Mags and his two best friends, where they hurt each other only the way true friends can? That was so real it was painful to read. But those moments were few and far between. You kept telling me what they were thinking, and how their characters were evolving, rather than showing me through any plot advancement. You’re a storyteller, not a psychiatrist, and I think you’ve run out of stories to tell here. Move on to newer and fresher worlds, and let Valdemar go gracefully. It’s been a long time since you had a Valdemar story that I loved, so please let me remember the Heralds and the Shin’a’in and the Hawkbrothers and Need and Kero with fondness, rather than tarnishing their memory by adding to the family tree with literary dross.
P.S. I listened to the Brilliance Audio version of your story, narrated by Nick Podehl, and I thought he did a great job with the voices, though he tends to go a bit breathy on the females. It was very convenient that each of the CDs was the exact length of my commute.