The Mage Storms by Mercedes Lackey is the bringing together of three previously released books (Storm Warning, Storm Rising and Storm Breaking) into one volume. This makes a lot of sense as while the books form part of the Valdemar series they are a complete story in themselves. No previous knowledge of the wider series is needed to appreciate this one.
The books are set in a classic fantasy world, with no modern technology, with fairly widespread use of magic. The story centres around a main protagonist, a young priest, Karal setting off on a diplomatic mission with his master to a country where, until recently, they have been at war with. We witness his growth from an young naive man to one who is shaped by his experiences, tempered by his core values and beliefs.
It picks up the tale of Tremane, an aspirant to the throne of a great empire, who is tasked to win an impossible war or lose his life trying. We also meet An'desha a young man, trying to come to terms with the horrors in his past and use the information found in those memories to deal with the current crisis.
The characters from different backgrounds and countries come together to stop a magical cataclysm ripping apart society as they know it. However they soon realise that they can only do this if they let go of the grievances they hold, both personal wrongs and those caused by years of bloodshed between nations and work together. While a nation commits atrocities and murders your friends, can you see the individuals in that nation as nothing other than people driven into a corner, just trying to protect their own? We see how the characters have to come to terms with their own past and sense of identity before they can move forward.
It becomes apparent, as the story goes on that, while some characters are not exactly nice and have often done bad things, the real villains of the piece are prejudice, ignorance and intolerance.
The books have a lovely setting and get their points over though the experiences of the developing characters as we get to know them, rather than in a preaching or unsubtle way.
The role of religion in the book is pivotal; it is difficult to be an atheist when your god is known to turn up once in a while or send holy messengers and messages, but difficult to know that yours is the “true faith” when so do the gods of other lands. Needless to say this does not stop religious fundamentalism, although this is only hinted at in this story. Religion is shown in this story as generally benevolent and without direct conflict, but the hints within the history told by the characters is that it has been a factor in the previous wars.
The casual acceptance of homosexual relationships within a fantasy setting is lovely and always makes our world a little dimmer by comparison.
There are some interesting non human species that we are introduced to. The “Companions” and Firecats feel very human in character, but there is a plot reason for this. The more interesting species are the Gryphons, the Kyree, based on wolves and the Hertasi based on lizards. However the examples of these we meet are all secondary characters. It would be good to see if any of the books in the wider series are written from one of their perspectives.
If you like classic fantasy then this fresh, but familiar take, is well worth a read.
Written on 20th November 2015 by Karen Fishwick.
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