Velgarth is the over-arching title of a universe of books by Mercedes Lackey. There are quite a number of books, some standalone, some in series, set in Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar ‘verse. Some of them I found to be better reads than others. This is, of course, all based on my own opinion, and any of you might have your own thoughts on the subject, but I’m going to go through the different books/series and give a short blurb about how well-received (with me) they were.
Heralds of Valdemar
“Arrows of the Queen”, “Arrow’s Flight”, and “Arrow’s Fall”. The original trilogy, published in the late 80s. These are the books that started it all, and I quite liked them. I think they’re a good starting point for new readers. I liked the characters a lot– Talia and Dirk and Kris and Skif…
Vows and Honor
“Oathbound”, “Oathbreakers”, and “Oathblood”. A trilogy that takes place outside of Valdemar, showing us a little more of the world of Velgarth. I like “Oathbreakers” a lot more than the other two; I thought the plot was stronger and more interesting, the writing better. Note that “Oathblood” is a selection of short stories about the two main characters, Tarma and Kethry.
The Last Herald-Mage
“Magic’s Pawn”, “Magic’s Promise”, and “Magic’s Price”. This trilogy made me cry a number of times. It shows us an earlier Valdemar than in the original trilogy, and follows the story of Vanyel, who becomes something of a legend. Point of interest, he’s gay, and we also meet other gay characters throughout the trilogy. Point of warning, he has to deal with a lot of homophobia from his family.
By the Sword
A standalone novel about a descendent of Kethry. This is one of my favorites of the Velgarth ‘verse. I liked Kerowyn a lot; she’s a really strong and capable character and I loved watching her encounter aspects of the ‘verse that I already knew about.
The Mage Winds
“Winds of Fate”, “Winds of Change”, and “Winds of Fury”. Follows Princess Elspeth from the original trilogy. These books were kind of ‘meh’ for me; there were parts that I enjoyed, but I also got kind of bored a lot. I didn’t feel as connected to the characters as some of the other books. I did kind of like Darkwind (though jeez with the name, sounds like a 12-year-old’s Sith OC).
The Mage Wars
“The Black Gryphon”, “The White Gryphon”, and “The Silver Gryphon”. A sort of pre-history to Valdemar. Set before the establishment of any of the countries in the other books. No Companions, no Heralds. I never really got into these books; the characters and story events didn’t interest me. It was briefly interesting to see the events that shaped the world shown in the other series.
The Mage Storms
“Storm Warning”, “Storm Rising”, and “Storm Breaking”. Karse! I liked the viewpoint of these books– one of the main characters is a novice Sun-priest who’s been adopted by a Firecat (sort of Karse’s version of a Companion, but less common). He also makes friends with a Companion and a bunch of other multicultural individuals. They have to deal with political fallout from events previous (The Mage Winds trilogy), as well as a looming magical cataclysm. It was okay. It felt like kind of let down; I liked the characters, the plot promised to be epic and urgent… but it kind of sputtered.
“Owlflight”, “Owlsight”, and “Owlknight”. A semi-side view of the consequences of the mage storms talked about in the Mage Winds and Mage Storms trilogies. Even when I was at the height of my love of this world, I couldn’t stand these books. Spent most of the time wanting to smack the main character. Goodreads’ synopsis says of it: “It is here in the dark forest that he meets his destiny, as the terrifying and mysterious Hawkbrothers lead him on the path to maturity.” Seriously, guys, lead him down that path faster. Kid needs a swift kick in the face from the maturity boot.
A standalone novel looking back at another time in Valdemar’s history. It’s kind of a sad story? The main character, Lavan, gets the short stick quite a lot in his life. It made me emotional a few times. Point of warning, he’s abused and ‘bullied’ (more like tortured) for a chunk of the beginning. And the fact that he’s a very powerful Firestarter doesn’t really work out well for anyone. One of the better Velgarth books.
Take a Thief
The origin story of one of the main characters in the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy, Skif. I’ve always been fond of good-guy thief characters (stemming, I’m sure, from my love of Final Fantasy VI), so Skif has always been a favorite, the rascal. I enjoyed this chance to get his backstory, and see his thieving ways get used for the good of Valdemar.
The Story of Herald Alberich
“Exile’s Honor” and “Exile’s Valor”. Pretty much what it says on the box. We get Alberich’s backstory and the tale of how he became a Herald. We see him befriend the not-yet-Queen Selenay, deal with prejudices of a population at war with his motherland, Karse, and face the internal political intrigue that lays heavy on Valdemar. These two books tell us a lot of the events that lead into the Valdemar we were shown in the original Heralds of Valdemar trilogy.
The Collegium Chronicles
“Foundation”, “Intrigues”, “Changes”, “Redoubt”, and “Bastion”. A series set during the founding of the Heralds Collegium, somewhat early in Valdemar’s history. The ranks of the Heralds have grown so much that the old method of mentoring no longer is feasible, so they are establishing a centralized educational academy for the newly Chosen. Enter into this: Trainee Mags, who’d been Chosen and saved from horrific child-labor conditions at a mine. He doesn’t know who his parents are, which becomes a (kind of poorly done) plot point later in the series. I liked the first book, but I felt like the others went downhill very quickly. They didn’t seem to have the heart of some of the other books/series; they felt hollow and formulaic and occasionally nonsensical. I was pretty disappointed.
The Herald Spy
“Closer to Home” and “Closer to the Heart”. At least one more book is forthcoming– this is listed as a trilogy. A continuation of the story of Mags, he is now a full-fledged Herald and an assistant to the King’s Own Herald. I read the first one, but was underwhelmed. Though the writing seemed better, the storytelling wasn’t at top-form. The main conflict was pretty weak, and there was a little too much explanation (don’t need to spoon-feed the story to us) and not enough progression of action and character.
So there is it. I would actually recommend reading them in the order I’ve listed them, here, which is the publication order. I think it works better that way. If you’re a completionist, I guess you’ll have to trudge through some of the lesser installations, but if you’d like my recommendations on which to read:
- Arrows of the Queen
- Arrow’s Flight
- Arrow’s Fall
- Magic’s Pawn
- Magic’s Promise
- Magic’s Price
- By the Sword
- (read the Mage Winds and Mage Storms trilogies here, if interested)
- Brightly Burning
- Take a Thief
- Exile’s Honor
- Exile’s Valor
And remember, like my tagline states, these are just one nerd’s thoughts. Feel free to ignore me and read all of them if you wish. Your opinion may be different than mine.