A veteran of the fantasy scene, Mercedes Lackey has enjoyed a great deal of success in the US but until now hasn't really had a great deal of exposure over here in the UK.
This is set to change however thanks to Titan Books with the release of Foundation, the first volume in the Collegium Chronicles, set within her high fantasy Valdemar realm which has already been host to over 20 novels. Foundation follows the orphan "Mags" who is rescued from a life of slavery by a "Herald" and set to learn to become one of these brave protectors of the realm at the college in Haven.
Mags finds hidden talents as he learns the life of a trainee and the whole world seems to suddenly open up for him, assisted by his "companion" Dallen who is linked to his mind and can communicate by thought alone.
Foundation has a wonderfully rich and cosy feeling about it; it's one of those feel good books that wraps you up in a warm embrace and entertains you with deft dialogue and intriguing characters. Mercedes Lackey has a disarming and charmed voice and a very friendly writing style that reminds me a little of Jim Butcher; it's got that same familiarity about it, that same feeling of not trying too hard and it is very clear that she is a master of her craft.
It's also clear that the world of Valdemar has some history to it, even if the UK audience may not be fully aware of the fact and this adds much to the book. This also means that there isn't a huge amount of world building going on which keeps the pace on a nice even keel.
The rich characterisation adds much to the book, you really do feel yourself rooting for Mags; the way he is portrayed as an innocent kept as little more than a slave for most of his life does really tug at the heart-strings. The surrounding characters are also wonderfully idiosyncratic and lots of fun.
The plot is entertaining but with a pretty relaxed pace - it's very much an introduction to the characters and the college and follows the traditional tropes of young urchin destined for greatness. To me that wasn't an issue in the slightest, not all books have to break the formula - it works for a reason and the last 50 pages or so are quite spectacular; setting the scene perfectly for the next book. I pretty much wanted to start reading the following novel right away and that doesn't happen very often.
Foundation is a rewarding fantasy read, it's got a wonderfully rich prose, superb characterisation, a plot that sucks you in and a finale that keeps you there.
Written on 3rd December 2012 by Ant.
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