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VOYAThis latest of the Valdemar books is accurately billed as a stand-alone. It is not absolutely necessary to have read any of the other Valdemar novels to understand this one, but it certainly makes the experience richer. The tale centers on life in Valdemar after the Tedrel war and the death of King Sendar. The main protagonist is Alberich the Herald, who is a native Karsite, and the saga covers his life as the Collegium's Weaponsmaster and his extracurricular activities as a spy. He brings down a conspiracy to take over the Crown as well as consummates the relationship with Herald-Scribe Myste that was hinted at in Exile's Honor (DAW, 2002/VOYA June 2003). The conspiracy connects to the subplot of Selenay's grief at the loss of her father and her search for love. Of course, she falls in love with the prince from a neighboring kingdom, who aims to become Regent of Valdemar, and is found out and killed by Alberich. This novel is different from most of the others in the series in that it is primarily plot- and action-driven. There is a good deal less of the dry recitation of Valdemarian history and politics than usual, and what is included is inserted subtly into the story. Valdemar fans will gobble this one up, and with so little background knowledge needed, this title might lure new readers to the series. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, DAW, 402p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Marlyn K. Roberts