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ARC Review–Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire

***I am choosing to bring my old book review blog, Be Quiet, Mommy’s Reading, back to life. This is a cross post, one week after it was originally posted there. If you want more book reviews, come follow me over there as well. My kids will book vlog, and I’ll cover more genres than romance***

I received this arc (advance reader’s copy) from Seanan at Worldcon.

Warning–this is the 12th book in the October Daye series. There are spoilers for the previous 11 books/the world after the image of the cover. My recommendation to read the series is in my seven favorite books posts here.

Click here to buy Night and Silence

 

After the events of book 11, The Brightest Fell, things aren’t going great. Tybalt and Jazz have PTSD–Tybalt isn’t even coming to see Toby. Are they even together anymore? No one is coping well. Then Gillian’s father shows up at Toby’s house and tells her Gilly has been kidnapped–again–nearly accusing her of it. She has to go and find her daughter, and it’s clear that someone/s Fae were involved.

When I first read the flap copy for Night and Silence, I was concerned. We’d already done a Gillian was kidnapped plotline in One Salt Sea (book 5). However, Seanan McGuire is brilliant and manages to turn what could so easily have been a recycled plot point into an exciting new story that draws us further into Faerie–not just today but the history and mythology of the world. I would never spoil a plot point, but I will say there are a number of twists and turns, one actually eliciting an audible gasp.

In terms of character development, the way Tybalt’s PTSD plays out is respectful to those who suffer from it. He doesn’t just “get over it.” He is struggling to be who he was, and failing miserably. We don’t see Jazz in this book–she’s referenced but is physically absent–but we know she can’t sleep. Both of them are haunted by Amandine’s actions. Toby isn’t doing so well either–she’s plagued by doubt and recrimination and Gilly’s abduction hits her like a ton of bricks, and she has to pull her shit together, at least on the surface, until she can get Gilly back.

The pacing is tight, and as always McGuire’s characters all have distinct voices and personalities. The tenor is slightly different from the books because Toby is so stretched so thin, emotionally, at this point in time. The way McGuire shifts Toby’s voice leaves it authentic–achingly so because you get drawn into the mire of her grief, terror and fragility. This is not to say there is no humor or that it’s a depressing book–it’s neither of those–merely that the stakes are raised on any number of fronts. There’s still the characteristic McGuire touch of snarky humor–too many character’s voices would be inauthentic if that were missing.

I highly recommend this book. 4.5/5 stars from me.

In the print copy (I’m not sure about digital, sorry) there is also a novella told from Gillian’s point of view that you won’t want to miss. If it’s not in the e-book, you’re going to want to go and buy the physical book so you can read it.

ARC review Wild Flower by Gemma Snow

Wild Flowers by Gemma Snow

Pub 9/4/18

4/5 stars

 

While this is book two in the Triple Diamond, I read it as a standalone title and never felt lost. That said, I saw just enough hints at the contents of the first book that I am putting it on my want to read list on Goodreads, and that I understood how Maddy (and hence Lily) got to this point in their lives.

Lily Hollis’s lover died five years ago, and she has been trapped by grief and sorrow. But on the fifth anniversary of Daniel’s death, she makes the decision to return to her master’s program and finish her research. Her sister Maddy has a ranch in Montana, and it’s the perfect location to do research on how different conditions affect tansy to make it either helpful or toxic.

Dec and Micah are best friends and a search and rescue team. They share a cabin on the border of the Triple Diamond land where they train search and rescue dogs and train more people to have those S&R skills. There’s also a ton of tansy growing all over their property. So they invite Lily to come stay with them, to be closer to her research.

There is instant chemistry between Lily and Dec and Lily and Micah. But can she choose? Does she want to?

When Lily confesses that she’s attracted to both of them, they decide to try her dating both of them.

Snow does a good job of setting up the story–why would Lily ever even consider dating two guys, what about her draws both men, and why is she there. The reader also understands the limitations and stakes–with Lily’s two week research window, why make her decide?

Lily is a well-developed, three dimensional character. It’s disappointing that the men aren’t as well fleshed out–there are tantalizing hints at their pasts, but while I have some idea of how Dec came to be who he is, I know almost nothing about Micah. However, all three character’s voices are distinct, so I never lost track of whose point of view we were in. The dialog is well-done. I’ve never been to Montana, but Snow paints a picture that makes me wish I had been.

The climax of the story (pun intented) is satisfying, and believable within the constraints of the world that Snow has created.

If you like m/m/f stories, this is a satisfying one. As a heads up, though, it’s not a triad where the men interact and there’s a bit of mild homophobia from the men when setting up the ground rules.

Book Review–Untouchable by Talia Hibbert

I received an ARC of Untouchable in exchange for an honest review.

What happens when a bad boy becomes a man?

Nate Davis didn’t plan on returning to his hateful hometown. But then, he didn’t plan on being widowed in his twenties, or on his mother getting sick, either. Turns out, life doesn’t give a f$*k about plans.

Hannah Kabbah thought her career in childcare was over. After all, no-one wants a woman with a criminal damage conviction watching their kids. But when her high school crush returns to Ravenswood with two kids in tow, she gets the second chance she never dreamed of.

She also gets to know Nate – the real Nate. The one whose stony exterior hides aching vulnerability. Who makes her smile when she wants to fall apart. Who is way, way more than the bad boy persona he earned so long ago, and way too noble to ever sleep with the nanny.

So it’s a good thing she’s completely over that teenage crush, right?

Untouchable is the third book in the Ravenswood series, following A Girl Like Her (2.99 on Kindle to buy) and Damaged Goods (1.99 on Kindle to buy), both of which are also on Kindle Unlimited. You don’t need to read the previous two to read and enjoy Untouchable–it is a self contained story, but I do recommend them as I did really enjoy them.

One of my favorite things about Hibbert’s work is that she creates three dimensional characters, which is a must for me. Hannah is bi and has anxiety and depression. Hannah is also a social pariah, having smashed the beloved town son’s Porsche with a bat in the prologue to A Girl Like Her. Nate is stressed out about his mother’s illness and related depression as well. The kids are not perfect angels–they have their quirks, like the little boy’s allergy to pants (which I can relate to as one of mine was like that at that age).

Nate hires Hannah to be his nanny. He soon begins to fight an attraction, and Hannah goes through the same thing. It’s more than halfway through the book before they give in, while Hibbert ratchets up the tension piece by piece.

Then he crushed the image ruthlessly and with no little self-disgust. He was back in the real world, where his utterly untouchable nanny was staring at him as though his head had fallen off his shoulders. He wondered if she was about to ask him why the fuck he was still holding her. Hopefully not, because he didn’t think his answer–“Sorry, you just feel really good” — would cut it.

I’m a sucker for a relationship where there is a power dynamic. The nanny/employer dynamic is a real problem that Nate and Hannah must deal with and overcome.

Something I wish had been developed further was Hannah’s blog. There’s a few quotes from it. There’s talk about her writing it, but we never see enough of it to get really invested, and I got the feeling I was supposed to be.

Overall it’s a fast enjoyable read and I look forward to visiting Ravenswood again.

Pre-order Untouchable here (2.99 on kindle, free on unlimited)

Seven Books I Love, part seven–Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

There’s a Facebook meme going around where you list seven of your favorite books in seven days. I thought I’d do mine as a series of blog posts. I’m going to cheat and do a few series mixed in with single books. This is not an absolute list–this is my seven of many favorite books. I could do one of these for children’s books, YA, adult, romance, and I’d still never even approach naming all my favorite books.

That said, here is book seven–Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

“‘You are sharing the Dark Lord’s thoughts and emotions. The Headmaster thinks it inadvisable for this to continue. He wishes me to teach you how to close your mind to the Dark Lord.'”

Dark times have come to Hogwarts. After the Dementors’ attack on his cousin Dudley, Harry Potter knows that Voldemort will stop at nothing to find him. There are many who deny the Dark Lord’s return, but Harry is not alone: a secret order gathers at Grimmauld Place to fight against the Dark forces. Harry must allow Professor Snape to teach him how to protect himself from Voldemort’s savage assaults on his mind. But they are growing stronger by the day and Harry is running out of time…

I know in general I’ve been doing the entire series (In Death, Jewels), with the exception of Magic’s Pawn. But besides the fact that I’m currently reading it with Athena, it has always been my favorite of the Harry Potter books. Big spoilers ahead, but it’s been long enough–the books have been out for over a decade and the movies have also been out for ages.

The reasons I love Order of the Phoenix include that it’s the point where the books really grow darker, we have our first truly traumatic death (I’d argue that Cedric Diggory wasn’t all that traumatic because we barely knew him), and that the big evil of this specific book is both political (the Ministry’s efforts to discredit Harry via the media of the state) and banal (Umbridge is both a political tool and that totally evil teacher we’ve all had who hates children).

This is where all of the world building and character driven plot really pays off with regards to the darkening tone. Many of the adults we’ve come to know and love turn out to be in the Order. The way that the children are cut out of the Order’s business both makes sense as a mom of almost 40, but is also an injustice given that we know exactly how capable these children are. I have to wonder how things would have been different had they just not have tried to keep Harry etc at arm’s length. This is especially a problem because of how it negatively impacts Harry and Dumbledore’s relationship. On the other hand, we see Sirius fighting to allow Harry a seat at the table.

Which leads me to Sirius’s death. We went from hating him to discovering he was Harry’s godfather and was set up–he didn’t betray the Potters. His and Harry’s relationship has deepened ever since. Sirius even wants Harry to stay with him rather than return to the Dursley’s. But then comes the scene in the Ministry vault–and Bellatrix kills Sirius. I sobbed, feeling Harry’s grief. This is also a scene where the movie did a good job showing the tragedy of Sirius’s death.

We see a Voldemort with real power. We see a corrupt Ministry that would rather pretend that Harry has cracked than the truth and one that is willing to discredit someone they see as a threat. The Ministry installs Umbridge as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to be their tool and to further divide the student body.

Umbridge is a great example of what an intentional tool of the state can do in terms of creating an authoritarian state. From the punishment of I must not tell lies to teaching DAtDA as a philosophical rather than practical class to her usurpation of Headmistress of Hogwarts and the dictates she passes as the leader of the school. At the same time she is banal evil–she’s that teacher who had it out for you. She’s that teacher who hates children and everyone knows it. She’s that teacher who looks harmless but is really sadistic. We’ve all had that teacher or that boss–we can all recognize the type of evil that she is. As a side note, while I don’t really approve of how the movies changed plot lines at times, when Umbridge begs Harry for mercy that she’s really a kind person or whatever, Harry responds with “Sorry, Professor, but I must not tell lies”? That’s fucking great and I loved that change.

Her totalitarian state creates the resistance in the form of Dumbledore’s Army. Even Hermione, the consummate rule follower knows that sometimes you have to break the rules. When a rule is unjust and evil is being perpetrated in your midst you fight back.

These two points seem especially relevant in Trump’s America. You have the state media of Fox News, and even supposedly liberal papers like the New York Times and Washington Post can’t seem to stop running articles about the poor white voters that have been left behind. Today WaPo ran an editorial that said even if you hate Trump you have to vote Republican to save our country. We also have a very active resistance led by women, particularly women of color. Women are running for office at a never before seen rate. There are constant protests and speaking truth to power. There is an active resistance. In some ways, it’s a good thing to be reading this with Athena at this moment in time because it’s giving me that language to talk about current events with her.

The prophecy is revealed and we learn that Neville could also have been the Chosen One, but that Harry really only is because Voldemort focused on him, which subverts the Chosen One trope. But Voldemort is also prevented from hearing the prophecy.

And of course, Order of the Phoenix introduces Luna Lovegood, one of my favorite characters and not just because I’m a Ravenclaw.

Order of the Phoenix is free on Kindle Unlimited, 8.99 to purchase, or one audible credit to listen to it in the car.

 

So that’s my seven…or seven of my favorites. I’ll be doing a post (or several) with some Honorable Mentions although we’ll never get to all of my favorite books because then we’d be here forever.

Seven Books I Love, part five–The Blessings Series by Beverly Jenkins

There’s a Facebook meme going around where you list seven of your favorite books in seven days. I thought I’d do mine as a series of blog posts. I’m going to cheat and do a few series mixed in with single books. This is not an absolute list–this is my seven of many favorite books. I could do one of these for children’s books, YA, adult, romance, and I’d still never even approach naming all my favorite books.

That said, here is book (series) five…The Blessings Series by Beverly Jenkins

On Bernadine Brown’s fifty-second birthday she received an unexpected gift—she caught her husband, Leo, cheating with his secretary. She was hurt—angry, too—but she didn’t cry woe is me. Nope, she hired herself a top-notch lawyer and ended up with a cool $275 million. Having been raised in the church, she knew that when much is given much is expected, so she asked God to send her a purpose.

The purpose turned out to be a town: Henry Adams, Kansas, one of the last surviving townships founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. The failing town had put itself up for sale on the Internet, so Bernadine bought it.

Trent July is the mayor, and watching the town of his birth slide into debt and foreclosure is about the hardest thing he’s ever done. When the buyer comes to town, he’s impressed by her vision, strength, and the hope she wants to offer not only to the town and its few remaining residents, but to a handful of kids in desperate need of a second chance.

Not everyone in town wants to get on board though; they don’t want change. But Bernadine and Trent, along with his first love, Lily Fontaine, are determined to preserve the town’s legacy while ushering in a new era with ties to its unique past and its promising future.

summary of Bring on the Blessings, Blessings #1

Readers of Beverly Jenkins’ historical romances will perk up at the name “Henry Adams” because it’s the setting for a number of historical books. This is indeed the same town, which has become a run down dying town that put itself up for sale.

Bernadine is a no nonsense woman who takes her divorce settlement and buys Henry Adams. She wants to revitalize the town, and one of her projects is to create homes for foster kids who need a home and love because she’s a former social worker. The first few books deal with each of the families with a foster child, and then it begins to widen out. Family is always at the center of the books, though, and they qualify as sweet rather than steamy romance (read her historicals for steamy).

On paper this is not something I should love–sweet romance isn’t usually my style, nor do I read a lot of mainstream fiction. But Jenkins’ writing along with her as always well populated cast of characters draws you in. I bought the first book to read on vacation last December, and in two weeks I’d read all of the books and the novellas.

What I love best about the book are the characters. Each of the children has the sort of history that makes them suspicious but hopeful when it comes to their new parents. The different ages of the children also affects the way they interact with their new parents and the community. Their past also marks each child differently. The parents are also very different and each book addresses the relationship of the parents–one has a couple that is struggling with how to deal with the distance that has grown between them.

Bernadine is fabulously wealthy, so she has the magical deep pockets that allow her to buy a town, build a school, etc. But unlike your typical billionaire, she’s not white and she’s not a man. She also has a collection of equally fabulously wealthy female friends who have each other’s backs, share a private plane, and more. It’s a cool take on the billionaire trope.

These books are the kind of balm your soul might need in these trying times. A community that actually comes together and embraces these children feels alien at this point in time, and is the kind of place I aspire to live in.

The ninth books in the series–Second Time Sweeter comes out Aug 28th, so you have time to read them and catch up. Book one, Bring on the Blessings is 3.49 on Kindle.

Seven Books I Love, part four–The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

There’s a Facebook meme going around where you list seven of your favorite books in seven days. I thought I’d do mine as a series of blog posts. I’m going to cheat and do a few series mixed in with single books. This is not an absolute list–this is my seven of many favorite books. I could do one of these for children’s books, YA, adult, romance, and I’d still never even approach naming all my favorite books.

That said, here is book (series) four…The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born.

Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery…before the curse catches up with her.

–summary of Rosemary and Rue, book 1 in the series

Rosemary and Rue is the first book in the October Daye series. It opens with October “Toby” Daye, a half human/half Fae knight, tracking the man who has kidnapped her liege lord’s wife and daughter…and she fails, horribly. So horribly that the kidnapper turns her into a koi. She spends fourteen years in the pond, only to change back by some unknown exercise of her powers. By this time her ex and her daughter have moved on, and want nothing to do with her. She, in turn, turns her back on Faerie.

I think starting a series with a failure is a brave move. Everything that happens, and is still happening in the upcoming book twelve of the series, comes back to this failure and how it changed Toby. That said, books one and two are a little slow–I think in part to doing the heavy lifting in world building and introducing characters–but good. Book three, though, was when the series took off for me.

McGuire’s Faerie world borrows heavily from Celtic tradition with a twist all her own, as the Faerie Hills open into our world. Most of the Toby books are urban fantasy, largely taking part in San Francisco and the Faerie Hills near it. Living near San Francisco, part of me is always a little delighted to come across a setting from one of the book and is half hoping to see a Fae creature because I’m a bit whimsical.

Toby becomes a private investigator in her “real” life as well as picking up her sword again (more or less). This means the books tend to fall into a procedural or an investigation theme. Each book expands the world as we know it, adding characters, and deepening relationships and motivations. Some of my favorite characters are Tybalt, the King of the Cats and the Ludaeig, the sea witch.

McGuire’s books always have snappy dialog and pop culture references. Toby’s books are a bit less so because she’s fourteen years out of date–her relationship with cell phones is entertaining for one, and there’s a teenage character who thinks her taste in music sucks. Toby’s universe is also peppered with incredibly snarky characters as well as incredibly earnest ones as well as the baddies. There’s a lot of nuanced characters–the Ludaeig always demands a price, but as the books unfold you understand why she is the way she is. The man who turned her into a fish–Simon Torquill–is also an unexpectedly gray character, as we find out in either the most recent book or the second to most recent book.

I loved McGuire’s work as YA author Mira Grant (Feed will show up in my honorable mentions), so I started reading her adult work. The Incryptid series could easily have taken this spot as well. I sat down to start reading the Toby books in February and with a short break to read the new Anne Bishop, I devoured them all in under a month.

Urban fantasy your thing? Read the October Daye series.

Buy Rosemary and Rue (book one in the series) for 1.99 on kindle.

Seven Books I Love, part three–Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

There’s a Facebook meme going around where you list seven of your favorite books in seven days. I thought I’d do mine as a series of blog posts. I’m going to cheat and do a few series mixed in with single books. This is not an absolute list–this is my seven of many favorite books. I could do one of these for children’s books, YA, adult, romance, and I’d still never even approach naming all my favorite books.

That said, here is book three…Magic’s Pawn

(Much of this blog post comes from another piece I wrote about it)

Though Vanyel has been born with near-legendary abilities to work both Herald and Mage magic, he wants no part of such things. Nor does he seek a warrior’s path, wishing instead to become a Bard. Yet such talent as his if left untrained may prove a menace not only to Vanyel but to others as well. So he is sent to be fostered with his aunt, Savil, one of the famed Herald-Mages of Valdemar.

But, strong-willed and self-centered, Vanyel is a challenge which even Savil can not master alone. For soon he will become the focus of frightening forces, lending his raw magic to a spell that unleashes terrifying wyr-hunters on the land. And by the time Savil seeks the assistance of a Shin’a’in Adept, Vanyel’s wild talent may have already grown beyond anyone’s ability to contain, placing Vanyel, Savil, and Valdemar itself in desperate peril…

It is damn near impossible for me to have any objectivity about this trilogy in general, and about Magic’s Pawn specifically.  There are books you will read during the course of your lifetime that so fundamentally alter who you are as a person that they become far more than a story to you.  Magic’s Pawn was one of these books.

Somewhere around 1990/91 I’d given up reading kid’s books.  YA wasn’t really a genre at that point–there were a few shelves at the bookstore devoted to things like Sweet Valley High, Christopher Pike, and Lurlene McDaniels novels–so I transitioned to the adult section.  My local bookstore (anyone else remember Waldenbooks?) had a fairly small Sci-fi/Fantasy section, and every week I would be there pouring over books, trying to decide how to best spend my allowance (and/or baby-sitting money).  There were few enough employees that after a while we were on a first name basis.  One employee, Bryan, was a fellow sci-fi/fantasy nerd and I took his recommendations fairly seriously.

In 1995/1996 (when I was 17 and a senior in high school) Bryan turned me onto Mercedes Lackey with her book The Black Gryphon.  After reading it, I wanted to read more Lackey–but her catalog was so big that I was overwhelmed by which book to read next.  Bryan offered me Magic’s Pawn.

Growing up in the part of Massachusetts where the line between suburban sleeper community meets rural countryside in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I’d never met anyone who was gay.  Ellen hadn’t come out yet, and Will & Grace was years away from airing.  I understood that being gay wasn’t socially acceptable–the tone people took, the slurs, and the messages I’d picked up from from pop culture and the people in my life had taught that to me.  I was guilty of saying things like “Who cares who you sleep with, but why do I have to see two men kiss in front of me?”–as if I ever had, or even knew what I really saying–I was parroting what I was taught.

Vanyel was the first gay person I ever met.  Magic’s Pawn took me on his journey, and in doing so changed who I was.  After that book I would never say something like “why should two men kiss in front of me,” instead feeling infuriated that someone would dare question their love as less valid than mine.  When I moved to Boston for college, my mind and heart were ready to meet and ally physical (as opposed to fictional) LGBTQA individuals.  And when I went though my own realization and outing as bisexual myself a few years later, I found myself visiting with Vanyel all over again.

Mercedes Lackey is an infuriating author.  She can write books like Magic’s Pawn, and then she can write just some of the worst Mary Sue filled, ignore your own cannon, why can’t I forget you ever wrote this in the first place dreck like Exile’s Honor and Exile’s Valor.  These days I tend to avoid her new work as I’ve been disappointed far more often than I’ve enjoyed it–especially since she’s ignoring her own canon.  That said, her back catalog, particularly some of the Valdemar books remain some of my favorite books almost 20 years later.

Picture Credit-Drunkfu on DeviantArt

Vanyel has only one thing he’s ever dreamed of being–a Bard.  Unfortunately he’s also the heir to his father’s estate, so music isn’t a career that’s in the cards for him.  He’s too small and fine boned to sword fight like his larger bulkier brothers and cousins, but his swordsmaster feels that the fast feint and dash method that would match his build is “cheating.”  Jervis promptly breaks his arm in punishment for “cheating.”

Apart from his older sister Lissa-who is sent away within the first chapter to become a guardswoman (there’s one girl in every generation who bucks tradition–and you always know who because they inherited the “Ashekevron nose)-he’s left without close friend or ally.

When he’s sent to Haven-the capital city of Valdemar-he’s told that he can’t even take his horse.  Insult after insult is given–he’s taken to the city between two of his father’s guards like a common criminal.  He’s so hurt that he decides

It was so simple–just don’t give a damn.  Don’t care what they do to you and they do nothing.

But like every emotionally abused child who has ever thought that before or after Vanyel, all it does is serve to isolate him further.

Left in his aunt’s care, he has no clue what to make of his unexpected freedom, his lessons with the bards, or Tylendel (one of his aunt’s students.)  His lessons, though, only serve to crush his one remaining hope–that he would be taken into Bardic Collegium and be made a Bard.  He’s a beautiful musician, but he doesn’t have the bardic gift and he doesn’t compose–and he’d need one of the two for them to remove him from the position of his father’s heir.  Vanyel is left without hope for the future.

Vanyel’s drawn to Tylendel, but has no words to describe what it is he’s feeling or why until a girl at court mocks ‘Lendel’s sexual preferences.  It is a lightning bolt to Vanyel, who hadn’t even realized that such pairings were even possible.  Watching them come together is powerful, as is the scene from the next morning when they sit down with his aunt to talk about what will happen now that he and Tylendel are a couple…

“The first problem and the one that’s going to tie in to all the others, Vanyel, is your father.”  She paused, and Vanyel bit his lip.  “I’m sure your realize that if he finds out about this, he is going to react badly.”

Vanyel coughed, and bowed his head, hiding his face for a moment.  When he looked back up, we was wearing a weary, ironic half-smile; a smile that had as much pain in it as humor.  It was, by far and away, the most open expression Savil had ever seen him wear.

“‘Badly’ is something of an understatement, Aunt,” he replied rubbing his temple with one finger.  “He’ll–gods, I can’t predict what he’ll do, but he’ll be in a rage, that’s for certain.”

“He’ll pull you home, Van.” Tylendel said in a completely flat voice.  “And he can do it; you’re not of age, you aren’t Chosen, and you’re aren’t in Bardic.”

“And I can’t protect you,” Savil sighed, wishing that she could.  “I can stall him off for a while, seeing as he officially turned guardianship of you over to me, but it won’t last more than a couple of months.  Then–well, I’ll give you my educated guess as to what Withen will do.  I think he’ll put you under house arrest long enough for everyone to forget about you, then find himself a compliant priest and ship you off to a temple.  Probably one far away, with very strict rules about outside contact.  There are, I’m sorry to say, several sects who hold that the shay’a’chern are tainted.  They’d be only to happy to ‘purify’ you for Withen and Withen’s gold.  And under the laws of the kingdom, none of us could save you from them.”

Looking back, it’s pretty revolutionary that this scene was written in the late 80’s when homosexuality was a huge cultural taboo and AIDS was a death sentence.  The Reagan administration was delaying research into HIV/AIDS because it was seen as a “gay disease.”  It was written long before conversion therapy was debunked as dangerous and damaging.  Lackey’s sex scenes are all off-page, but she was writing relationships like Tylendel and Vanyel (and even a potential all female triad relationship years earlier) long before we were having cultural discussions about LGBTQA representations in media and critiquing lack of representation.

While the spectre of Vanyel’s father looms over the relationship and has them playing a double game, the real danger to the relationship is from ‘Lendel.  More to the point, Tylendel’s obsession with a family feud his family has going with the Leshara family.  Lendel’s twin brother is the lord of their holding, and Lendel wants to take his side.  Heralds must be neutral, and Lendel is anything but.  When his brother is murdered, Tylendel’s control snaps, and he uses Vanyel to seek revenge.

—and that’s just the first half of the book.

Mercedes Lackey signs autographs at CONvergence (source wikipedia)

The book isn’t just noteworthy because it was before its time on LGBT characters.  These are complex characters.  Vanyel is hurting and emotionally damaged, but he can also be a jerk.  He’s dependent on Tylendel and he never really stops to wonder if ‘Lendel’s plans are a good idea.  He is self-centered and arrogant.  He’s also starving for love, sweet, and deeply caring.  Tylendel is obsessive, but doesn’t mean to use Vanyel in the way that he does.  Savil is aware of Tylendel’s obsession but doesn’t take it seriously enough.  Characters are imperfect and they screw up.

Her characters go on emotional journeys–they grow and they change and those moments are often painful.  The first time I read the book, it had me sobbing.  Rereading it over the past few days, even though I knew what was coming and what will happen in the next two books in the series, I was still blinking back tears.

If you like fantasy, I really can’t recommend Magic’s Pawn highly enough.

Short list of recommended Lackey books are–Black Gryphon (maaaaaaybe White Gryphon, definitely not Silver Gryphon), Vanyel’s trilogy, Vows and Honor duo, Arrow’s trilogy, By the Sword, Winds Trilogy, and the Mage Wars trilogy. The rest of the Valdemar books are questionable if not infuriating to me. Some of her work that has gone out of print that is excellent if you come across it used are the Serrated Edge books and the Diana Tregarde books. The Fire Rose is excellent. The rest of the elemental books are hit or miss. She’s great, but it’s too often a crapshoot for her to still be on my auto-buy list, although there was a time when she was.

You can buy Magic’s Pawn for 2.99 on kindle.