Magic’s Price: Bittersweet finale

Mercedes Lackey The Last Herald Mage: Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, Magic's PriceMagic’s Price by Mercedes LackeyMagic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey

In Magic’s Price, the third book in Mercedes Lackey’s THE LAST HERALD MAGE trilogy, we discover how this trilogy got its name. It’s been nine years since the previous story ended and the Herald-Mages are being knocked off one by one. Valdemar is in great danger. Vanyel is “the last Herald-Mage” and there’s a target on his back. If he dies, how will Valdemar survive a magical attack by enemies? Can Vanyel and Yfandes, his Companion horse, find and stop Master Dark, the evil magician, before Valdemar is doomed?

Obviously there is much at stake for Vanyel and his beloved country in Magic’s Price. Vanyel is the most powerful person in the realm and at first he doesn’t even know who his enemy is. All he knows is that he and the people close to him are targets, so Vanyel moves his family to court in Haven where, he hopes, he can keep them safe.

In Haven, Vanyel’s friend King Randale is also in trouble. He’s dying and the heir to the throne is an untrained youth. Randale is having trouble governing the realm because he’s in so much pain. Fortunately, Vanyel’s nephew at the bardic school has a classmate named Stefen who has the gift of easing pain with his music. Stefen is brought to court to see if he might help King Randale. It turns out that Stefen is a great admirer of Vanyel, not only because of Vanyel’s power and authority in the realm, but also because Vanyel is openly homosexual. Stefen, who is also openly homosexual, tries to seduce Vanyel, but Vanyel is worried about the huge age difference and how it might look if he has a relationship with such a young man. He’s also worried, of course, about the safety of anyone close to him.

Vanyel is much older and more mature (and less emo) in this book which is partly why it didn’t annoy me nearly as much as the previous books did. There’s also a better balance between story and romance, though the romance still feels like it gets more of the author’s attention to detail. The rest of the plot is typical fluffy epic fantasy that, frankly, feels uninspired. There’s a dimly developed dark mage with a vast army who has to be defeated before he overruns the good mage’s country. Ho hum. Except for the sexual orientation of the good mage, it just doesn’t stand out in any way.

Readers who like the Hawkbrothers will be glad to see them back in Magic’s Price. They bring help and enlightening information. There are some deep personal tragedies for Vanyel in Magic’s Price, but also some sweet reconciliatory moments which I won’t spoil for you. And, of course, the possibility of a new true love though, to accomplish this it seems like Lackey has to change the rules of how magic works in Valdemar. I understood that a person could form only one life-bond during their lifetime, but Lackey twists things a bit to allow Vanyel to have two life-bonds. This felt contrived to me.

In the end there is a “price” for Vanyel’s magic and many soft-hearted readers will appreciate the bittersweet finale of THE LAST HERALD MAGE. I might have appreciated it, too, if I had liked Vanyel a little better. He is much more likable in this book, but that was too late for me.

The audio production by Brilliance Audio continues to be excellent. Gregory Nassif St John is perfect in this role and I hope he’ll be doing more fantasy in the future!


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KAT HOOPER is a professor at the University of North Florida where she teaches neuroscience, psychology, and research methods courses. She occasionally gets paid to review scientific textbooks, but reviewing speculative fiction is much more fun. Kat lives with her husband and their children in Jacksonville Florida.

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2 comments

  1. Sir Read-a-Lot /

    Vanyel’s second lifebond is a cheat, but not in the way you think it is. It’s been stated (or at least heavily implied) in various books that Stefan is Vanyel’s first lover reincarnated. (Although I recall a possible threesome lifebond in Arrows trilogy)

    Other books establish lifebonds to frequently be less about true love, and more the gods’ way of saying “We’re sorry we’ve made your life suck so much. Here’s a present to keep you from going insane and using your overpowered magical abilities to blow the surrounding area from here to Ipswich.” Apparently the gods decided that Vanyel’s life sucked even more than is typical.

    • Hi Sir Read-a-Lot,

      Yes, I realized how Lackey got away with the “second” life-bond. I didn’t want to give away the details in the review so as not to spoil the secret about Stefen, so I said she “twists things a bit” to get away with it. This felt contrived to me, especially since I think I recall some characters talking about how there’s only one life-bond. But I had only read the first Valdemar book previously, so maybe this would seem less contrived to someone who had read the entire Arrows trilogy.

      Thanks for letting me know about the true love aspect. I didn’t know that and had assumed that life-bond = twoo wuv.

      Yes, I’d agree with the gods that Vanyel’s life pretty much sucked.

      Have you read the other Valdemar books? Which do you like best and least? I am just starting to read more Lackey because her books have been coming out on audio recently.

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