Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey – Review

Book Jacket:

Intrigues is the second book in the Collegium Chronicles trilogy.

You would think that everything would have settled down for Mags at the Collegium. After all, he had been there for half a year, and by now things should have sorted out into a routine.

But nothing is ever simple where the Collegia are concerned. Bear’s parents want him to “stop wasting the Healers’ Collegium’s time” and demand he return home. Lena’s father Bard Marchand, turns up, and sends her into a tailspin. The Foreseers have had a vision of the King covered in blood, and all the signs point to Mags being involved! He finally uncovers some scant information about his parents, and they are not what he thought they were. And old enemies have not given up….

Review:

Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar is like an old friend – I’ve read every book in this series and am always delighted when she writes more. So admittedly to me this story is part of a whole – I know this world, its magic, society, and events past and future  I am too familiar with this series to imagine what it would be like reading this book as an entry point – frankly, if you’ve never read this series before, I would reccoment you go back and read the first book Lackey wrote in Valdemar, Arrows of the Queen.

Intrigues, on its own merit, is a complete and satisfying story. I liked Foundation, the first book in this trilogy, quite a bit and Intrigues is a worthy follow-up. Mags is an extremely likable hero – quiet, serious, and sweet. Lackey does have themes she returns to regularly, and this story falls firmly into a familiar wheelhouse – the story of an outsider trying to find a place to fit in their new world, and their struggle to believe in their own worth. I think there’s enough to this story to call it new, but I do see why some people would find it perhaps a tad too familiar, because there are unquestionably thematic similarities to earlier trilogies in the Valdemar series.

Where Foundation (Collegium Chronicles #1) was essentially, as they often say of comic-book movies, the origin story, Intrigues takes the idea of Mags as an outsider a step further, to where he is outright persecuted for being different and foreign. More than anything I love how Lackey’s story addresses hot button issues so subtly, so fully within the story, that you hardly realize the import of what you’re digesting – here it’s the idea of the “other,” the evil foreigner. Within the story, it’s heartbreaking to see the toll the accusations and hostility take on Mags and his circle of friends, and how even the people he trusts can turn on him under the right stressors.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Lackey’s strength lies in her emotional storytelling, in the emotional side of her character arcs. Here, once again, she delivers. Mags is literally pushed to the breaking point, to rock bottom. It is painfully well wrought and utterly compelling.

Plot-wise, this is an internal story – it’s about suspicions and trust. This book is not overflowing with action and battles, and while it has a nice sense of building pressure and tension, its deliberateness might be, well, too deliberate for some. As for me, I was thoroughly entertained by this story.

However I do have two quibbles with this book – first, there’s the introduction of a new game for the Trainees to play, Kiriball, that smacks a little too much of quidditch, especially with the forming of the teams and subsequent celebrity. It did play a necessary part in the story, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. Second, there was one scene of such utter selfishness on the part of Mag’s friends that I was appalled – they attacked him verbally in a truly vicious way, and later they don’t even bother to apologize. Instead Mags apologizes to them, which made me downright angry with both them and him. This happened towards the end of the book, so I hope there will be repercussions and fall-out from this in the next book – to me it felt like a violation of trust that was never fully addressed.

In the end, I truly enjoyed Intrigues. This is a lovely fantasy story, not too dense, not too light, and a welcome addition to the Valdemar series. I am definitely looking forward to the next book.

Byrt Grade: A-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

All Booked Up says:

I have to say that I preferred Intrigues to Foundation in several ways, but mostly that the book didn’t seem to come to such an abrupt end…I found myself quite satisfied with the flow for Intrigues and I’ll be reading it again soon. Probably right after re-reading Foundation. Overall, Intrigues proved itself to be another good read from Mercedes Lackey, and added itself to the world of Valdemar very well, and I really enjoyed the read.

Dear Author says (of Foundation):

The strength of the Valdemar novels has always been the journey of a misunderstood, often neglected and abused, teen and how they grew up to be someone great and important, whether that be the greatest herald-mage in history or the monarch’s own herald.  So I was very, very glad Foundation went back to its roots.

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