Magic’s Pawn, the first novel in the Last Herald Mage trilogy, is about a young man named Vanyel, who is sent away from his home to live with his Herald-Mage aunt after not meeting his lord father’s expectations. In his new home, Vanyel learns things about the world and himself that he had shut away – he learns about magic and the gifts of himself and others, and most importantly, he learns about love and how to live and grow strong after heartbreak and trauma.
This was my first Mercedes Lackey novel; I had originally bought A Scandal in Battersea to read first, but then Magic’s Pawn caught my eye – perhaps it was the magic, perhaps it was the love story, who knows, but I am very happy I read this one first. And during Pride Month too, which makes it even better.
I think Vanyel is supposed to be a sort of annoying character at first – he carries himself with arrogance to hide his insecurities. However, the way that Lackey wrote his character really just made me sympathize with him all the more. Really, Lackey wrote all of her characters well, even the annoying ones, and the evil ones. Again, with Vanyel, by the end of the story you can’t help but like him. He’s just trying his darndest in the end and, really, aren’t we all?
Because the book is so character-driven, there isn’t as much depth in the world-building. However, what there is of the world-building was written very well. We readers get a sense of the places that Vanyel is, for lack of a better term, flung into. But in truth, what makes the places are indeed the people that live there. Vanyel’s childhood home seems barren and rugged, just like the personality of his unforgiving father; Haven, the home of the Herald-Mages, welcoming and with a curious nature that all of its inhabitants have; and others, though I don’t want to spoil the book by saying more about them.
One final thing that I want to talk about is the way Lackey writes her characters dealing with their emotions. In short, they deal with them in a very realistic, very human way, that I think all readers can and will appreciate. Vanyel, especially, deals with emotions of hurt and despair, as well as insecurities that any of us might find ourselves dealing with. He just has to deal with them longer, and, on top of that, with magic consuming him on all sides. Lackey has him, and others, deal with these emotions in healthy ways, and in loving ways.
Overall, Vanyel is very relatable as a character, and his story here is wonderfully and emotionally compelling. I think I would have loved this book when I was 9 years old and just getting into Lord of the Rings – I am happy to have found this book now though!
I recommend to everyone, and especially to those who want some emotional, raw, and real emotions and love from lgbt+ and mlm characters this Pride Month.
I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Magic’s Promise.
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So the Reading Rush didn’t go as well as I hoped it would for me, as I had a bit of a slump on Saturday, but I did get quite a bit of reading done otherwise! I finished three books and read halfway through a fourth.
The first book I finished was The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip (137 pages). I won’t say too much about it here because I made another post all about it, but I will say it was so amazing, and I need MORE of McKillip’s work!!
The second book I finished was Down Among The Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire (187 pages). This is the second book of McGuire’s Wayward Children series, but a prequel to Every Heart A Doorway. I made a whole post reviewing this one as well, but I did not like it as much as the first book. That being said, I still enjoyed it, and the books in this series are great for listening on audiobook, which I did!
The third book I finished was And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness (160 pages). Again, I did make a whole review of it, but I will say that this retelling of Moby Dick is so much more than that. The illustrations by Rovina Cai are gorgeous.
After these three I got halfway through the audiobook of Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire, the fifth book of her Wayward Children series. Yes I do realize I skipped books 3 and 4, but upon reading the synopses I realized that they were more prequels, whereas Come Tumbling Down continues (kind of) where Every Heart A Doorway left off. I will make a review post as soon as I finish this one too.
If any of you have recs for books that are like Wayward Children, do let me know! I love listening to them.
Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages & Co. is one of the coziest books I have ever read, and has been a perfect Autumn read. It is about a girl named Tilly, whose grandparents own a bookshop called Pages & Co. She is the most avid of readers, and soon finds out that she, along with her grandparents and others, has the ability to wander in and out of books. This ability sets Tilly off on an adventure in which she makes new friends and discovers new mysteries.
Pages & Co. brought me right back to my childhood, with Tilly meeting such characters as Alice and Anne Shirley. I think at some point we all have wished that our favorite characters would come to life – Anna James makes this a reality for Tilly and has us as readers share in that wonderful experience. Tilly’s story, as well, is very much like a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, with each book being another rabbit hole for Tilly. I now want to go read Alice and become even more immersed in Tilly’s adventures.
My only issue with this book is that some of the plot devices are gone through too quickly and I feel need more explanation. Perhaps this will be remedied in the next books.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to sit down with a cup of tea and go on an adventure.
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The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don’t know why I never picked up The Golden Compass before, but I really should have, because this book is brilliant.
Such a wonderful, in-depth story with complex characters (even the very background characters were as complex as the protagonists!), I could not put it down, save for the times when academia made me.
Pullman is a wonderful storyteller, and knows how to make readers keep asking questions. In addition, Pullman uses description in a remarkable way, especially during scenes of fights and intense drama, using description styles which directly reference those used by the ancient poet Vergil in his epic, the Aeneid.
The character of Lyra is someone whom all adventurers should like to be: curious, headstrong, having a clear sense of fairness, and full of love for her friends. And the daemons, the souls of the human characters, let readers in on a side of humanity rarely seen in everyday life.
I cannot recommend this book enough to those who love adventure and a sense of discovery.
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The Hunter’s Moon by O.R. Melling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s not often that I find a good book about the fairy lore of Ireland that isn’t a book of old tales. The Hunter’s Moon was an adventure from start to finish. The plot revolves around two young girls, Findabhair and Gwen, whose plans to visit the ancient Faerie sites and historical monuments, only to be caught up in the world of Faerie itself when the King of the Fairies takes Findabhair for his queen. It is not long after that Gwen becomes “fairy-touched” as well.
I became interested in reading this book first because of how much took place in different parts of Ireland. Then I was pulled in by the world of Faerie and the lore that went with it. O.R. Melling does a fantastic job of putting two modern girls into an Arthurian, mythical tale, akin to the Pearl Poet’s “Gawain and the Green Knight”, abounding in monsters and daring, heroic quests – my favorite kind of story!
I already loved fairy lore, but now I want to learn more about the history of it, not only to better understand the references in The Hunter’s Moon, but also because it is simply fascinating. I was surprised at how much Christianity Melling incorporated into the fairy lore, but I don’t know to the extent they are actually connected historically, and I will need to do some fun research.
Melling also did a great job with the characters: all are very strong, especially Gwen. Here is a girl of sixteen going on the adventure of a lifetime. She holds her own very well, but I am happy to say she is not afraid to ask for help when she needs it, which I think is something many of us need to learn. She is loyal to all her friends, and they in turn are loyal to her, and are also people who won’t shy away from an adventure.
My biggest criticism for this book is that I feel the climax of the book came very last minute, and I wish there would have been more hints to it earlier and more incorporated with the references to fairy lore that were already in place. The conclusion seemed a bit rushed, and I think it could have used another 50-100 pages.
Overall The Hunter’s Moon is full of nonstop adventure from start to finish. I recommend this book to those who love Ireland, fairies, and daring quests!
I’m eager to see what Melling has in store in the next book of the series, The Summer King.
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