Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar: Too many fragmentary tales

Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey

Tempest (2016) is the most recent in a lengthy series of light fantasy anthologies set in and around Mercedes Lackey’s well-known Valdemar, is a land where people called Heralds are “Chosen” (read: magically bonded for life) with telepathic white horse-like creatures known as Companions. Once bonded, the pair joins others in traveling and policing their kingdom against wrongdoing, threats and evils of all kinds. While I’m a relative newcomer to the world of Valdemar, I’ve read several other works by Lackey and was impressed by a couple of her short stories of the Companions. Brilliant and heroic telepathic horses! What’s not to like? And many of these stories feature non-Herald humans from all walks of life, as well as gryphons, kryees (huge, intelligent wolves), and firecats (think large, magical, sentient Siamese cats): a promising variety.

So I began this anthology of twenty-two short stories by Lackey and other authors (several of whom have had stories in the previous TALES OF VALDEMAR anthologies, but I was quickly brought down to earth. Every time I started getting interested in a story, it would just cut off. The majority of stories in this collection gave me the unmistakable impression of being the first (or, occasionally, a middle) chapter of a longer novel. It’s like reading an episodic tale where you’re only able to read one chapter. They don’t give me enough to make me care about the characters or what happens to them.

As I did some additional research I found that several of the authors whose stories appear in Tempest have also had stories featuring the same characters in previous anthologies in this series. I suspect that some of these authors are writing primarily to fans who have read their prior Valdemar tales, and presume that the reader has important background information from those earlier tales. While I don’t believe that excuses the fragmentary nature of these tales, readers who have been following the TALES OF VALDEMAR series may have a more satisfactory sense of continuity than I did.

A few of the stories that I enjoyed the most:

“BloodLines” by Phaedra Weldon: Herald Ryvic and his Companion are sent to Bell’s Valley, a town where Ryvic spent several years before he was Chosen, to settle a bloody feud involving a large number of people in the town, including Ryvic’s childhood friend Sves, who is now the acting mayor. Upon his arrival, Ryvik is promptly hit in the head by a large rock, which injures him severely, knocking him out for an entire day. When he finally comes to, Sves explains the feud, but the more Ryvic investigates the dispute the more he uncovers, not just prejudice against others who are different, but darker motivations as well, as well as more danger to his own life. A good reminder that we are all more alike than we are different.

“A Tangle of Truths” by Angela Penrose: Herald Arvil attends the first birthday party of Lord Brandin’s first son and long-awaited heir, joining guests from all over. When one of the baby’s gift’s turns out to have a horrifyingly deadly bit of magic attached to it, Lord Brandin is ready to start murdering guests. It’s up to Arvil to figure out the plot: the reason for the attempted murder and the person behind it. It’s light but fun, with a few enticing red herrings along the way.

“Unimagined Consequences” by Elizabeth A. Vaughan: While this story had an undeniably episodic feel to it (logically so, as the main character has appeared in previous collections), I found it much more appealing than most of the others. It’s a slice of life tale about Lady Cera of Sandbriar, recently widowed, and her efforts to rule her land well, overcome their lack of assets by entering into alliances and bargains with others … and avoid needing to get married again too quickly. I always admire a resourceful woman character who is willing to work to make life better, not only for herself but for the people around her.

“Unraveling the Truth” by Dayle A. Dermatis: another mystery involving a Herald tasked to settle a dispute that has stymied local officials. A prime piece of land is being claimed by three descendants of a man who died many years ago. Two of them want to oust the third, who seems to have the lesser inheritance claim. But Herald Syrriah decides to investigate further. Perhaps a lovely tapestry in the home on the property will provide a clue to settle the dispute…

There are several recurring themes in these stories: Underdogs who are able to prove themselves, or muster the fortitude to set off in a journey or quest to do so. Character finding ― or acknowledging ― their “Gift,” or even just realizing their own strengths. Resolving tangled legal disputes in a fair manner ― one of the primary functions of Heralds and Companions. Dealing courageously with opposition.

Though I didn’t find the writing style or plots in most of these tales memorable, they’re all reasonably well-written. But as a group they simply aren’t particularly compelling, especially where so many of them feel like unfinished works. I recommend this short story anthology primarily to dedicated Valdemar fans.

Published December 6, 2016. The Heralds of Valdemar are the kingdom’s ancient order of protectors. They are drawn from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages—and all are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more. These inborn talents—combined with training as emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counselors, warriors, and more—make them indispensable to their monarch and realm. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horse-like Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. The Heralds of Valdemar and their Companions ride circuit throughout the kingdom, protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch. Now, twenty-three authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique voices to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this beloved fantasy realm.  Join Elizabeth Vaughan, Fiona Patton, Jennifer Brozek, Brenda Cooper, Rosemary Edghill, and others in twenty-two original stories, including a brand-new novella by Mercedes Lackey, to Valdemar, where: A Herald must crack an ancient code in a historic tapestry in order to arbitrate a dispute over land and lineage… A Healer’s daughter flees the noble family that has trapped and enslaved her mother, and must seek help to free her mother… A young woman who hides her clairvoyant powers from her town’s Karsite priests ForeSees a threat, and must risk revealing her Gift to save her community… A Herald finds his assistant has been abducted by a man upon whom he had levied a heavy fine, and must foil the kidnapper’s plans to save his charge…

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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2 comments

  1. This seems very much like it’s one for the fans, who aren’t coming in at the middle of the movie, so to speak.

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  1. A nice review of Tempest, the new Valdemar anthology | Dayle Dermatis - […] a thoughtful review of Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar, the latest Valdemar anthology, with a specific mention of my…

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