Closer to the Heart is listed as The Herald Spy book 2, it is worth noting, however , that while the characters do appear in Closer to Home (The Herald Spy book 1) the book is itself a complete story, rather than a continuation of the existing story arc. In fact, the characters life before these books appears to be the subject of The Collegium Chronicles and The Herald Spy books appear to follow on directly from these.
I recommend not being put off by the blurb on the back cover (which is then repeated on the Amazon page) as I am not convinced that the person writing this has even read the book and the comments about Mags’ early life appear to things that took place in The Collegium Chronicles rather than in the current book.
The strength of this book is the storytelling, the engaging characters and believable motivations. You know who you are supporting, even if you don't know who the “enemy” is yet. It doesn't have lots of complicated, difficult to understand or access plots or modern day social justice motivations. Having said that it is not predicable and gives you enough twists and action to keep you wondering what is coming next. It is great escapism, a classic fantasy tale with everything implied by that.
The books tell the story of Amily, recently appointed as the “Kings Own”, essentially the first advisor to the King, and her fiancé Mags, the apprentice to the King’s spy, as they work to foil a plot to drag Valdemar into a war with their neighbouring country.
The character are working to a deadline to stop an possible war, but I didn’t really feel the urgency, I didn’t see the consequence of a possible war, the lives threatened or damage that a war could do as the story is told through the characters who are a long way from a possible war front and the threats that we do see are primarily political rather than military.
The magic in this setting is relatively low key, the characters have “gifts” which, in this book, mostly revolve around some form of mind reading/speaking, the story explores some novel uses of these skills, including the ability to see through the eyes of animals.
Although Mercedes Lackey's world contains a number of non human races, the only ones that feature in this book are the “Companions”, the horse like creatures who are bonded to their human Heralds. This creates a unique relationship, although this book does not explore the possible downsides of having another creature able access your mind all the time, the upsides of long distance communication, even when you are kidnapped were definitely looked at.
The engaging characters, and gentle but moving pace, make this book a good read and could introduce you to a series of books which is worth looking into if you are a fantasy fan and have not read these before. If you fancy an escape and to while away a few hours, this is a pleasant and diverting read.
Written on 31st December 2015 by Karen Fishwick.
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