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The long-awaited founding of Valdemar comes to life in this new series from a New York Times bestselling author and beloved fantasist. Within the Eastern Empire, Duke Kordas Valdemar rules a tiny, bucolic Duchy that focuses mostly on horse breeding. Anticipating the day when the Empire’s exploitative and militant leaders would not be content to leave them alone, Korda’s fat The long-awaited founding of Valdemar comes to life in this new series from a New York Times bestselling author and beloved fantasist. Within the Eastern Empire, Duke Kordas Valdemar rules a tiny, bucolic Duchy that focuses mostly on horse breeding. Anticipating the day when the Empire’s exploitative and militant leaders would not be content to leave them alone, Korda’s father set out to gather magicians in the hopes of one day finding a way to escape and protect the people of the Duchy from tyranny. Kordas has lived his life looking over his shoulder. The signs in the Empire are increasingly dire. Under the direction of the Emperor, mages have begun to harness the power of dark magics, including blood magic, the powers of the Abyssal Planes, and the binding and "milking" of Elemental creatures. But then one of the Duchy’s mages has a breakthrough. There is a way to place a Gate at a distance so far from the Empire that it is unlikely the Emperor can find or follow them as they evacuate everyone that is willing to leave. But time is running out, and Kordas has been summoned to the Emperor's Court. Can his reputation as a country bumpkin and his acting skills buy him and his people the time they need to flee? Or will the Emperor lose patience, invade to strip Valdemar of everything of worth, and send its conscripted people into the front lines of the Imperial wars?


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The long-awaited founding of Valdemar comes to life in this new series from a New York Times bestselling author and beloved fantasist. Within the Eastern Empire, Duke Kordas Valdemar rules a tiny, bucolic Duchy that focuses mostly on horse breeding. Anticipating the day when the Empire’s exploitative and militant leaders would not be content to leave them alone, Korda’s fat The long-awaited founding of Valdemar comes to life in this new series from a New York Times bestselling author and beloved fantasist. Within the Eastern Empire, Duke Kordas Valdemar rules a tiny, bucolic Duchy that focuses mostly on horse breeding. Anticipating the day when the Empire’s exploitative and militant leaders would not be content to leave them alone, Korda’s father set out to gather magicians in the hopes of one day finding a way to escape and protect the people of the Duchy from tyranny. Kordas has lived his life looking over his shoulder. The signs in the Empire are increasingly dire. Under the direction of the Emperor, mages have begun to harness the power of dark magics, including blood magic, the powers of the Abyssal Planes, and the binding and "milking" of Elemental creatures. But then one of the Duchy’s mages has a breakthrough. There is a way to place a Gate at a distance so far from the Empire that it is unlikely the Emperor can find or follow them as they evacuate everyone that is willing to leave. But time is running out, and Kordas has been summoned to the Emperor's Court. Can his reputation as a country bumpkin and his acting skills buy him and his people the time they need to flee? Or will the Emperor lose patience, invade to strip Valdemar of everything of worth, and send its conscripted people into the front lines of the Imperial wars?

30 review for Beyond

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    4 stars You can read all of my reviews at Nerd Girl Loves Books. This is a great fantasy book that has magic, court intrigue, and a quest to escape a cruel Emperors. Duke Kordas rules a tiny Duchy best known for horse breeding. Thought to be a "country bumpkin" at Court, Kordas' feigned persona hides a cunning intellect and a quest dating back generations to break free from the suffocating empire and its litany of cruel Emperors. While most mages are forced to serve the Empire, Kordas' family has 4 stars You can read all of my reviews at Nerd Girl Loves Books. This is a great fantasy book that has magic, court intrigue, and a quest to escape a cruel Emperors. Duke Kordas rules a tiny Duchy best known for horse breeding. Thought to be a "country bumpkin" at Court, Kordas' feigned persona hides a cunning intellect and a quest dating back generations to break free from the suffocating empire and its litany of cruel Emperors. While most mages are forced to serve the Empire, Kordas' family has been secreting away mages in their land for generations. Their intention is to build a gateway far enough away from the Empire to move their entire Duchy before the Empire notices they're gone. When the mages finally make a breakthrough and the plan is set into motion, Kordas is called to Court and must act as a decoy while the rest of his Counselors and Duchy get to work. But Kordas didn't count on finding others at Court that may also be in need of rescue. I really enjoyed this book. For a fantasy book, the characters are surprisingly optimistic and most of their plans go according to plan. Sometimes the plans go too good, which is hard not to roll your eyes at. The main character Kordas is someone that can't sit still when he sees injustice, which only serves to complicate his life. He meets someone at Court that I really enjoyed reading about - I don't want to say more to avoid spoilers. There is some mysterious "thing" about Kordas that is constantly eluded to in the book, but is never really explained. That is frustrating. There are only a few main characters in the book, and they are fairly well defined. Most of the side characters aren't well-developed, but they add texture to the story. This isn't a typical dark and broody fantasy book. It's more fluffy and feel-good - which is weird to say about a fantasy. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the read, and although I thought it was a stand alone book because the ending is pretty satisfying, from the title and the few loose ends left dangling, I can see how this could be made into a series. I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and DAW. All opinions are my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

    This review was originally posted on my blog: Tea Rex Reads I was given a free advanced copy of this book by DAW Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much DAW Books! Mercedes Lackey is one of my favorite fantasy authors of all time. Her Valdemar books are so easy to read and fun to get lost in. She is one of the authors I turn to when I need to cheer up or de-stress or even get myself out of a reading slump. So, when I heard she was starting a new series not only This review was originally posted on my blog: Tea Rex Reads I was given a free advanced copy of this book by DAW Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much DAW Books! Mercedes Lackey is one of my favorite fantasy authors of all time. Her Valdemar books are so easy to read and fun to get lost in. She is one of the authors I turn to when I need to cheer up or de-stress or even get myself out of a reading slump. So, when I heard she was starting a new series not only set in Valdemar but about it’s founding, I was so excited! I already knew I’d be devouring Beyond as soon as it released on June 15th this year, so getting an advanced copy was just icing on the cake. When I say I devoured Beyond, that’s exactly what I mean. I finished this book in less than 24 hours. My expectations for a beautiful story filled with relatable characters and exciting mystery was certainly fulfilled with this book. Beyond takes place in “the Empire” - a brutal world filled with magic made up of nobles vying for the Emperor’s vacillating approval and taught from birth to back stab and maneuver to accomplish their goals. The poor commoners are considered less than dirt and barely noticed for more than their usefulness as soldiers in the never-ending war for empirical expansion or as farmers and servants. This is life in the Empire everywhere except in the Duchy of Valdemar. Duke Kordas Valdemar was raised by his parents and grandparents to treat his people with respect and to work hard for the benefit of his Duchy. He raises prized horses to sell throughout the Empire, and puts on a show as being the country bumpkin for the Emperor’s spies. All of this is so he, his family, and those he trusts with his life can complete a generations long Plan to escape the Empire for good - along with anyone who wants to come. Naturally, this plan doesn’t go off without a hitch, or two, or three. As Kordas encounters more and more people he feels obligated by honor to rescue, The Plan becomes increasingly complicated and difficult to execute. The mystery of how everyone would escape and stay safe from the Empire for good is really what kept me reading this book with zeal. Seeing Kordas use his brains over brawn to outmaneuver the denizens of the Empire all while making loyal friendships along the way was a great centerpiece of the book. I also enjoyed seeing LGBTQ+ represented in the cast of characters. In fact one of the many reasons The Plan came about was to help those who would be persecuted and killed for their beliefs or who they loved to be able to escape the Empire for good and live in relative safety. Which, from reading other Valdemar books, we know this is a forerunner of thought that leads to the basis for all society and law in Valdemar: there is no one true way to live. Characters throughout the book even state their “truths” to each other. It’s evident that at least in the Duchy of Valdemar people seek to discover and live their true lives. They seek to stop hiding who they are and live their lives free of ostracism and violence simply for what they believe and who they love. These situations were obviously the author’s commentary on the world today and how we should seek acceptance and equity for all. All of that being said. There were a few things about the book that bothered me and may bother other readers as well. First, most of the opening chapter of the book is a description, in sometimes graphic detail, about a horse giving birth. This threw me off a bit, but later in the book I realized it was a device to quickly establish what type of person Kordas is to the reader. In that respect the scene accomplished it’s goal, but just be aware the scene is there. Finally, there were a couple of points in the book where a transition in the story was a bit abrupt. Once, when Kordas was called to the Capital, and again when the big conflict in the story was resolved. Both situations seemed to come out of nowhere. Kordas traveling to the Capital happened at the beginning of a chapter, and the previous chapter never mentioned him so much as getting a messenger requesting his presence. So, these two points in the story disrupted my immersion a bit, but otherwise, I really enjoyed this book. If you’re like me and have been itching to read more about Valdemar, then go out and preorder this book! My only regret is that now I must wait at least a year for the next one!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marlene

    Originally published at Reading Reality Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. Come to think of it, that kind of applies in the story, too, as there are certainly times when Kordas Valdemar is not having any fun at all, but time is flying because he and his duchy have way, way, way too much to do to get the hell out of, not exactly Dodge, but out of the corrupt Eastern Empire before it either wipes them out or topples from within under the weight of its own corruption. I read what became the Originally published at Reading Reality Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. Come to think of it, that kind of applies in the story, too, as there are certainly times when Kordas Valdemar is not having any fun at all, but time is flying because he and his duchy have way, way, way too much to do to get the hell out of, not exactly Dodge, but out of the corrupt Eastern Empire before it either wipes them out or topples from within under the weight of its own corruption. I read what became the first book in the very long running Valdemar series, Arrows of the Queen, when it first came out back in 1987. My initial paperback copies crumbled to dust long ago, but I still have the Science Fiction Book Club hardcover omnibus edition of that original trilogy. It feels like that was a lifetime ago and very far away. I remember the series fondly, because at the time it was published there wasn’t much like it at the time. It was female-centered, it was a heroine’s journey, the worldbuilding was deep and fascinating and felt like a place that one would want to live. It all just worked and I loved the whole thing and seem to have read the first 30 books or so before it fell under the wheels of “so many books, so little time”. So it had been a long time since I traveled to Valdemar, but remembered it so fondly, that when the eARC for Beyond popped up I was, well, beyond interested. I love foundational stories anyway, and here was a foundational story for a world I still sorta/kinda knew. That it was set at a time in that world’s history that hadn’t really been touched on before meant that I could pick back up here and not feel the compulsion to go back and read the 15 or so books in the series that I missed before reading this one. Not that I might not take a look at them afterwards! But events later don’t usually impact events before – and Beyond was certainly before pretty much everything else. So here we are, in the far past, before Arrows of the Queen or Magic’s Pawn, and, as it turns out, headed beyond the borders of the Eastern Empire that Valdemar and his people came from. This story is the story of the leave-taking, and very much the story of why they left. And it’s a doozy. If you have fond memories of Valdemar, as I very much did, Beyond is a fantastic way to go back. If you’ve never been, it’s a terrific time, and place, to start. Escape Rating A-: One of the things that I remember from my previous reading is that, in spite of more than a few crises along the way, Valdemar as a place felt livable. Like Pern and Celta and Harmony but surprisingly few other fantasy (or fantasy-ish) realms, the world seems to be functional. Not that humans aren’t more than occasionally idiots – because we are – but the foundations seem to be solid and the place seems to work, more or less, most of the time. The story in Beyond is the beginning of the story of why Valdemar mostly works. The Eastern Empire is the horrible warning of what happens when bad follows worse in endless succession for centuries. At the point we meet Kordas Valdemar, it’s not a matter of if the empire will fall, its when – and how much collateral damage that fall will do. What we have, in a way, is kind of a fix-it fic. Not that Kordas can “fix” the empire, because it is way too late, the corruption is much too thorough. There have been too many generations trained and “nurtured” in the belief that all the corruption is the way that things are supposed to be. Rather, this is the story of a whole bunch of people from all walks of life who have said, “enough” and have the means and the method to find a way out. Beyond is the story of a PLAN, definitely all caps on plan, and the implementation of that plan. It’s about the last coming together, of the getting of all the ducks in their rows, and of all the things and people and events that conspire to make it happen AND that get in the way. And I loved the two-steps forward, one-step back of the whole thing. The meticulous organization running headlong into the desperate measures. And I especially loved the people making it happen in spite of the odds and the risks and the strong possibility that it will all go pear-shaped. Which it kind of does, but in the best way possible. So if you enjoy watching a plan coming together, if you like watching people work hard and sweat much in order to bring off the work of decades, if you don’t mind just a bit of villain monologuing and love a story of unlikely heroes, Beyond is a delight. Especially if you’ve never been to Valdemar or are, as I was, looking for an excuse to go back. The one thing I missed in Beyond that was part of the magic of the original series are the magical, fascinating, horse like Companions. I kept waiting for them to appear because they were such a marvelous part of the original stories. There are beautiful and intelligent horses, because that’s what Valdemar-as-a-duchy was famous for, but no Companions – at least not yet. Therefore, it made me very, very happy to learn that Beyond is the first book in The Founding of Valdemar trilogy. The Companions are coming, and I can’t wait for them to get here!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Woodman York

    Oh, how I have waited for this book. First, I waited for Mercedes Lackey to even decide to write it. This started over 30 years ago when I first read Arrows of the Queen. I wanted to know more about how Baron Valdemar escaped the horrible Empire, along with all those under him. It sounded like a story I wanted to read. Thank heavens, Mercedes finally did it! And it was all I would have hoped for. In the past years, the new Valdemar books she released, while entertaining, did not give me the same Oh, how I have waited for this book. First, I waited for Mercedes Lackey to even decide to write it. This started over 30 years ago when I first read Arrows of the Queen. I wanted to know more about how Baron Valdemar escaped the horrible Empire, along with all those under him. It sounded like a story I wanted to read. Thank heavens, Mercedes finally did it! And it was all I would have hoped for. In the past years, the new Valdemar books she released, while entertaining, did not give me the same feelings like her earlier books. I still read them, and enjoyed them. But this one is reminiscent of her earlier works. And it felt like going home. Answers to questions were provided (although, there are now more questions to take their place!). New characters have arrived. And I am already wondering when the next will be out.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I received an advanced copy from DAW in exchange for an honest review. For Mercedes Lackey fans, this is the story they've been waiting for for years, if not decades. The founding of the country of Valdemar, the setting for so many of her novels, has been referred to, but never written. We know the basics: Valdemar, escaping a tyrannical emperor, took his people and ran as far away as he could, where he then founded the country of Valdemar, and, when he entered his twilight years, prayed in a sac I received an advanced copy from DAW in exchange for an honest review. For Mercedes Lackey fans, this is the story they've been waiting for for years, if not decades. The founding of the country of Valdemar, the setting for so many of her novels, has been referred to, but never written. We know the basics: Valdemar, escaping a tyrannical emperor, took his people and ran as far away as he could, where he then founded the country of Valdemar, and, when he entered his twilight years, prayed in a sacred grove for help in keeping future monarchs honest and true. What he got was three Companions, white horselike beings with telepathy who bond for life to their chosen person. The rest is history. This is that story, up close. A duke in the Eastern Empire, Kordas Valdemar is known for being a bit of a backwater duke, content to breed excellent horses and not much else. His secret? He's playing it up to keep out of the Emperor's line of sight, as the Emperor is cruel and loves to play his courtiers against each other. When one of his mages makes a discovery, it sets into motion a plan that Valdemar dukes have been planning for decades: an escape. But instead of dedicating himself to saving his people, Valdemar is summoned to court, where he learns the awful truth of what the Emperor is doing not only to his own people, but to thousands of Elemental spirits. Now, he must try to save himself and his people from an Emperor with no morals and a taste for power. As a long-time (thanks for that Christmas gift in 1991, Uncle Brad!) fan of this world, I've literally been waiting almost 30 years for this story. And much of it is so, so good, it feels familiar and new all at once. The good people are good, because they care for each other and those they're responsible for, and the bad people are bad because they use up people as cannon fodder and entertainment. There's a lot of horse discussion, wacky mages, and mentions of events and places that made me go "oh, I know this thing!". For old-time Lackey fans, I'd suggest catching up by reading the Gryphon trilogy and the Winds trilogy to brush up on pre-history and the Eastern Empire. I'm not sure that I'd recommend this as an introductory read for someone who hasn't read Lackey before, but for established Lackey fans, this is a fantastic read we've been waiting a long time for. While I received an advance digital copy, I still pre-ordered a hardcover as well.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elley Murray

    Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, specifically The Last Herald-Mage series and The Arrows of the Queen, were some of the first adult fantasy I ever read, and really got me into the genre. I haven't read any of the most recent Valdemar books, but I was so excited to see this prequel series about the founding of this fictional country I've come to know and love that I just had to pick it up. Like some of the other more recent releases by Mercedes Lackey, this book seems to be missing a certain spa Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, specifically The Last Herald-Mage series and The Arrows of the Queen, were some of the first adult fantasy I ever read, and really got me into the genre. I haven't read any of the most recent Valdemar books, but I was so excited to see this prequel series about the founding of this fictional country I've come to know and love that I just had to pick it up. Like some of the other more recent releases by Mercedes Lackey, this book seems to be missing a certain spark that her earlier books had. It was an enjoyable read, but I was aware that I was reading a book the entire time. It didn't pull me in and transport me into the story - like all of the pieces were there but it didn't have the breath of life in it that stories really need to come alive. Still, this was a great read and I read it pretty much straight through, only putting it down to sleep. The book is written in the third person, alternating between following Kordas, the Duke of Valdemar, and Delia, his young sister-in-law. Both Kordas and Delia spend a fair amount of time in their own heads thinking Big Thoughts - like, PAGES of internal monologue. Each time was like slamming into a wall of thoughts that just pushed me entirely out of the story. Getting past their wordy internal monologues, I really loved the plot of this book. Valdemar is a duchy in an empire ruled by an evil Emperor, and there's plenty of subterfuge and spying and plots within plots here. I don't want to ruin anything, but what Kordas uncovers when he goes to the imperial palace is really intrigung, and I look forward to seeing how the new plot lines that are opened mid-story are resolved later in the series. If you're new to the world of Valdemar, the concept of the mind magic (vs mage magic) isn't really well explained in this book, like there's some assumption you've read other books in the series and are already familiar, so that may be a bit of a stumbling block for new readers. Perhaps it will be better explained in the next book, as the "Gifts" only came into play a very small amount in this first book. This is the first book in The Founding of Valdemar series. Some of the main plot lines wrap up nicely by the end of the book, so you could read it as a stand alone if you're not interested in continuing the series. I, however, and excited to see what new adventures book two will hold! A digital ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. All opinions are unbiased and my own. Like this review? Check out more of my reviews on my blog, Elley the Book Otter

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lark of The Bookwyrm's Hoard

    Finally, Valdemar’s origin story! I have been a huge fan of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books since the first trilogy came out in 1988-89. And I have been waiting for the story of Valdemar’s founding for nearly as long. So I was over the moon when I found out that she was finally writing Valdemar’s origin story as a trilogy. I went into Beyond with very high expectations. It didn’t entirely live up to those expectations—it’s not quite as gripping or well-paced as the best of her earlier books—but i Finally, Valdemar’s origin story! I have been a huge fan of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books since the first trilogy came out in 1988-89. And I have been waiting for the story of Valdemar’s founding for nearly as long. So I was over the moon when I found out that she was finally writing Valdemar’s origin story as a trilogy. I went into Beyond with very high expectations. It didn’t entirely live up to those expectations—it’s not quite as gripping or well-paced as the best of her earlier books—but it satisfied many of them, and left me eager for the rest of the story. In Beyond, we get to know Kordas, Duke of Valdemar (not Baron, a discrepancy which is explained later in the book): a conscientious, intelligent, compassionate leader of a backwater dukedom, who is both idealistic and pragmatic. We get an in-depth look at the Empire about 1000 years after the Cataclysm: both its politics and the ways it relies on magic. We find out why Kordas plans to take his people into a (not entirely) untamed wilderness. And we get rather more than some readers will want about the logistics involved in planning and executing that escape. (Personally, I found those sections interesting; I always like to know how things work.) Beyond offers intrigue, danger, and suspense, but also plenty of moments of humor, friendship, and compassion. Kordas is the main POV character, but there are also a number of scenes from his young sister-in-law Delia’s perspective. (Both are presented in third-person limited.) Other important secondary characters are Kordas’s wife, Isla; his seneschal, Hakkon; and his herald, Beltran; fans of the series will recognize Beltran’s name from the origin story as related to Talia in Arrows of the Queen. There are other Easter eggs for fans, but some involve spoilers, so I’ll let you discover them on your own. There is a lot going on in this book, and some of it was completely unexpected—which is both good from the perspective of telling an entertaining story, and logical from a “historical” point of view. The origin story as we know it from several of the earlier books had undoubtedly changed and been simplified as it morphed from history into legend, so it’s not surprising that not all the details match up, and much occurs in the “true” tale that is not remembered in those origin myths. In Arrows of the Queen, Davan says “There was a whole lot about all the hardships they went through, and I can’t remember that part too good,” which gives Ms. Lackey plenty of scope for expanding the story… and there was already enough in the two-or-three-page tale Davan relates to expand into a whole trilogy. One of Ms. Lackey’s strong points as a writer, besides her ability to tell a compelling story, is her skill at portraying everyday life as well as the big, important events. Some readers may find this an annoyance and a distraction from the action of the story, but for me, it makes it easier to immerse myself in the world of the story, to feel and hear and see and even smell the details of the world in which the characters (and I with them) live and move. In Beyond, many of these details are centered around just how you prepare to move thousands of people into the wilderness and keep them safe when you get them there—those “logistics” I alluded to earlier. If Duke Kordas is “idealistic and pragmatic,” this novel is imaginative and pragmatic: Lackey imagines a great migration, then works out and explains exactly how such a thing could be accomplished. For some, this may come across as “padding;” for me, those details make the entire premise of the novel more real and believable. That said, there are a few things that could have done with a bit more explication, particularly the guns. Fans have been speculating about those ever since the cover reveal, because there are no post-Cataclysm projectile weapons in any of the novels, other than bows; there are no cannon in the canon. (Sorry; I couldn’t resist!) Something like pistols and rifles or mortars do exist in the Empire, but the explanation of how they work is a bit vague, and one can only extrapolate the reason why they no longer exist. As for why no one, in all the long history since, has reinvented something similar… that point is completely ignored, at least so far. Ms. Lackey is not given to cliffhanger endings, so although the trilogy still has two books to go, Beyond does end at a relatively satisfying point in the story arc. Nonetheless, I’m going to be waiting impatiently for the second and third books! If you’re already a fan of the series, I think you’re going to really enjoy it… and the potential is there to love it as the trilogy goes on. If you aren’t already familiar with Valdemar, though, I don’t recommend Beyond as a starting place. While the story and characters are interesting for their own sake, a lot of the fun for me was in spotting the links and resonances with the later Valdemar and Empire I know from all the previous books. To get the most out of Beyond, at a minimum you should be familiar with the Arrows trilogy, the Mage Winds trilogy, the Mage Storms trilogy (which is where you’ll learn about the Empire), and The Black Gryphon. You might also want to read By the Sword between the Arrows and Mage Winds trilogies, since its latter third sets up the situation in the Mage Winds trilogy. Luckily, you’ve got two years to catch up on the overall Valdemar series before this trilogy is complete. And, wow, have you got a treat in store! Review originally published on my blog, The Bookwyrm's Hoard. FTC disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher. All opinions are entirely my own.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caitlyn Lynch

    I started reading Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books when I was a horse obsessed young teenager three decades ago. Thinking back on it, of course I started reading them because of the pretty white horses on the covers, but I kept reading them because I loved the very human stories of her characters, and they were definitely formative in my adult beliefs of right and wrong, who is ‘worthy’ of living a valuable and productive life, and all around generally how to behave like a decent human being. I c I started reading Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books when I was a horse obsessed young teenager three decades ago. Thinking back on it, of course I started reading them because of the pretty white horses on the covers, but I kept reading them because I loved the very human stories of her characters, and they were definitely formative in my adult beliefs of right and wrong, who is ‘worthy’ of living a valuable and productive life, and all around generally how to behave like a decent human being. I can’t say I’ve read EVERY Valdemar book in the decades since I first picked up Magic’s Pawn and was astounded to read an openly gay main character in print, but I’ve read the vast majority of them. And like every other fan of Valdemar, I’ve wondered about the founding and the mysterious, long-ago Baron Valdemar who fled a cruel empire with his people and founded a magical kingdom. Well, Lackey has finally decided it’s time to deliver Valdemar’s beginnings. Kordas Valdemar is known for breeding superb horses and not much else. The book actually opens on quite a confronting scene of Kordas assisting a mare in labour with a breech foal… I can definitely see anyone squeamish noping out here, so maybe consider that before you start reading. A lot of Lackey’s Valdemar books would probably fall into the Middle Grade or YA Fantasy designation, with young protagonists chosen as Heralds and growing into maturity during the course of the series. And while Delia, Kordas’ young sister-in-law, gets quite a lot of POV page time here, it’s Kordas who gets the most page time. His age isn’t specified precisely but simple math tells me he’s got to be about 30 if not a little more, and the book is correspondingly adult. There’s a moderately gruesome murder, people use swear words a lot, not to mention the explicitly described horse birth scene. This is adult fantasy, even though there’s no sex in it. Maybe Lackey’s aware that most Valdemar lovers have been adult for years, I don’t know… but if her target audience is adults, the moralizing is on the clunky and unsubtle side. Valdemar has always been super liberal, and I don’t see any of the long term fans picking this up not knowing that. Seriously, did we really need a page and a half of Kordas giving a speech about why he thinks enslaving non-human sentient beings is bad - to one of said non-human sentients??? I’m really not sure new adult fans would be won over by this clunkiness… and I think teenagers would be rolling their eyes, if not already put off by the gory horse birth! Kordas spends a lot of time struggling with the immutable truth that he can’t save everyone, much though he feels the urge to try. Lackey has always been heavy on the minute detail of what everyone is up to and their motivations but after the third iteration of ‘oh no, this other marginalized group are in trouble, I need to save them, how am I going to manage this’ I started to feel like I wanted some actual action and the plot to move on a bit. It does feel like there’s a bit too much filler here, in parts. I’ll pick up the rest of what I assume is going to be a trilogy because I’m a long-time fan and I want to know what happens. I don’t think I’d recommend this to readers who aren’t familiar with the world of Valdemar, however. It’s not Lackey’s best work. (I’d say start with the Arrows trilogy, if anyone was wondering). I’ll give it three stars. Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Mercedes Lackey has done it again! This book sucked me in with engaging characters and political drama. This book is a little darker than the other Valdemar books but that could be because Kordas and his people were living under the emperors thumb. This is a tale of new beginnings and tough decisions. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” could be the theme of this book. I can’t wait for the next installment

  10. 5 out of 5

    DarkHeraldMage

    Wow. I really don't know a better way to start this review because I just finished the book a few minutes ago and I'm still left in absolute awe at just how well Lackey managed to write a book that would live up to the years and years of hype that fans of her Valdemar world had built up in our minds about what this story would be. I went into this book hoping for a great story, unsure of how she'd be able to craft an origin story that would fulfill the fantasies and imaginings that readers have Wow. I really don't know a better way to start this review because I just finished the book a few minutes ago and I'm still left in absolute awe at just how well Lackey managed to write a book that would live up to the years and years of hype that fans of her Valdemar world had built up in our minds about what this story would be. I went into this book hoping for a great story, unsure of how she'd be able to craft an origin story that would fulfill the fantasies and imaginings that readers have been building up in our minds since we got a taste of Valdemar in the 1980s. The amazing thing about this book is it does all that I'd hoped for and so much more - we get a look at how Valdemar began, but also a very in depth look at the Empire they were all fleeing from to begin with. I knew when I started this book that it wasn't a standalone, so I fully expected it to leave off on a cliffhanger, but it did so in a way that still leaves me happy with the ending and simultaneously incredibly anxious for the next book to get written and published. All in all, this is a wonderful addition to the world of Valdemar, and one I look forward to rereading again multiple times in the years to come.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    The story of Valdemar’s founding has been mentioned in more than one of Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar books: Once upon a time, Baron Valdemar led his people into the wilderness to escape an empire and find freedom. There, in their new land, the first Companions emerged from a sacred grove and Chose the first Heralds to help maintain and defend the fledgling kingdom as its people fought to survive and thrive in the wildlands. But just who was Baron Valdemar, and what were his people like? The story of Valdemar’s founding has been mentioned in more than one of Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar books: Once upon a time, Baron Valdemar led his people into the wilderness to escape an empire and find freedom. There, in their new land, the first Companions emerged from a sacred grove and Chose the first Heralds to help maintain and defend the fledgling kingdom as its people fought to survive and thrive in the wildlands. But just who was Baron Valdemar, and what were his people like? What conditions did they flee, and how did things get so bad in the empire that they all felt like a life in the wilderness was preferable? More than thirty years after the publication of the first Valdemar book (Arrows of the Queen, 1987) Mercedes Lackey is finally telling the story of Valdemar’s founding. Kordas Valdemar is a clever man who wants nothing more than to raise his horses in peace, protect his people, and be ignored by the Emperor. For the majority of his life, he’s been able to do all three, but keeping out of the Emperor’s sight is easier said than done, and if Kordas makes the slightest misstep, he could be turned out of his own home and see his land and its people put under the authority of one of the Emperor’s sycophants. So for the past two generations, the Valdemar family has been preparing to leave the empire for a land far to the west where the Emperor can’t find them. There, they will build a new country where they can live as they choose without having to fear for their lives, homes, or freedom. But getting to this new land is easier said than done, and when the Emperor summons Kordas to the imperial court for no apparent reason, Kordas fears that decades of planning will be for nothing. But no matter the danger, they have to take the chance. Though the quality of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books has varied over the past thirty years (and some of the earlier ones have not aged particularly well), they have been perennial favorites for many fantasy readers thanks to lovable characters and fast-paced stories that blend action and adventure with stories of everyday life in a magical kingdom. The good guys are very good, and the bad guys are very bad– and they always get what’s coming to them in the end. These books are pure escapism in the best sense of the word, and for many readers, the Valdemar books have served as the first example of LGBTQIA characters portrayed in a positive light. The cover art of beautiful teenagers riding pretty white horses provided cover for the darker stories inside– after all, what close-minded adult who judged a book by its cover would think twice about handing a book about a girl and her horse to their teenager? And so, through the years, the magical land of Valdemar and its capital city of Haven became a real haven for many kids who questioned their identity or sexuality thanks to Valdemar’s most basic edict: There is no one true way. In Beyond, we discover that this motto has been baked into Valdemar’s identity from the beginning. Kordas has created a safe haven for quirky people whose ways of life, love, and happiness don’t fit into the strict and closed-minded norms of the empire they live within. Fleeing the empire doesn’t just mean that Kordas and his family will have the power to do what they want, it means that all the ‘different’ people who live within his domain will be free to seek happiness as they choose. The apparently gender-fluid mage can find happiness with the man he loves; a mother will be able to raise her sons without a veil of secrecy; magic-wielding people can live in peace and practice their art without being conscripted into the army to have their powers drained in an endless war. Though some of Lackey’s previous Valdemar books have suffered from a lack of focus, Beyond is an example of Lackey at the height of her powers. It features engaging and lovable characters doing their best, pastoral slice of life scenes blending with a tense main plotline, and enough political intrigue to keep everyone on their toes. And while we might know what’s going to happen in the end– the Kingdom of Valdemar comes into being and lasts for hundreds of years, after all– the question of ‘how did they do it?’ is what keeps pages turning. There’s plenty of both fun and suspense in Beyond, and some sly meta-textual commentary for sharp-eyed readers. And while plenty of questions are answered by the last page, there are still some left unanswered with the main one being, “When does the next book come out?”. ----- Thank you to DAW and NetGalley for providing me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michele bookloverforever

    Scary. Absolute power corrupts. Good thing there are brave, self sacrificing but pragmatic heroes. The man who founded my favorite fantasy world explains a loot about why my Valdemar is my favorite fantasy kingdom. Hope there's a sequel. Scary. Absolute power corrupts. Good thing there are brave, self sacrificing but pragmatic heroes. The man who founded my favorite fantasy world explains a loot about why my Valdemar is my favorite fantasy kingdom. Hope there's a sequel.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David H.

    I'm not as willing as others are to say that Lackey has "returned to form" with this book after the tragedy of the eleven(!) books featuring Mags and his family, but I was mostly very pleased with this book. In a lot of ways, this felt like a book-length version of (spoilers for Storm Rising): (view spoiler)[Tremane's raid on the Imperial Warehouse (hide spoiler)] (seriously Kevin, don't click that), so that will be fun for long-time readers of Valdemar. We definitely get a feel for Kordas and h I'm not as willing as others are to say that Lackey has "returned to form" with this book after the tragedy of the eleven(!) books featuring Mags and his family, but I was mostly very pleased with this book. In a lot of ways, this felt like a book-length version of (spoilers for Storm Rising): (view spoiler)[Tremane's raid on the Imperial Warehouse (hide spoiler)] (seriously Kevin, don't click that), so that will be fun for long-time readers of Valdemar. We definitely get a feel for Kordas and his character, and it's just so much fun to see the seeds of Valdemar-as-we-know-it. Also, in case it has to be mentioned, there are no Companions in this book; this is just the famous "escape from the Empire" book. The settlement of Haven will likely come in the next book or two (and honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the Founding of Valdemar trilogy ends with the creation/summoning of the Companions). That said, the resolution/ending of this volume felt a bit abrupt and confusing to me, especially since--as always--Lackey either doesn't remember or prefers to ignore the continuity with earlier books. This is definitely the case here where the end of this book doesn't match what we've been told (or have been revealed in the Mage Storms trilogy). You can make the argument that the passage of time in-universe has made the history murky, but that'd be weird for Lackey to start caring about that now. Not that any of the above paragraph is going to make me stop reading the rest of this trilogy, of course.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Chi

    Very much enjoyed this one, more than I have the recent Valdemar series, as it has the flavor of some of Lackey's earlier series, e.g. the Mage Wars or the Gryphons. The world building is more patient and interesting with the lush backdrop of the antiquated but formidable Empire we all love to hate. Love the patchwork vrondi. Looking forward to more. Very much enjoyed this one, more than I have the recent Valdemar series, as it has the flavor of some of Lackey's earlier series, e.g. the Mage Wars or the Gryphons. The world building is more patient and interesting with the lush backdrop of the antiquated but formidable Empire we all love to hate. Love the patchwork vrondi. Looking forward to more.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tanen

    OH THIS WAS VERY GOOD!!! Perhaps I just haven’t had a new Valdemar book in a very long time, but this felt fresh and raw and new in a completely delightful way. I absolutely adored the consistency of the world building which Lackey has always been brilliant at but must have been a challenge in this precursor novel. We are a bit light on some of the characters (I don’t feel like I really get Isla) but others are drawn in beautiful detail. I think Lackey’s strength (well, one of them) is something OH THIS WAS VERY GOOD!!! Perhaps I just haven’t had a new Valdemar book in a very long time, but this felt fresh and raw and new in a completely delightful way. I absolutely adored the consistency of the world building which Lackey has always been brilliant at but must have been a challenge in this precursor novel. We are a bit light on some of the characters (I don’t feel like I really get Isla) but others are drawn in beautiful detail. I think Lackey’s strength (well, one of them) is something of a gift for characters that want to do better. It doesn’t feel preachy, it doesn’t feel overly optimistic, it just feels real and nice and warm. This book was like a balm, reminding me so strongly of what I want to be in this world and keeping me thoroughly entertained the entire time. God I wish I had a pile of new Mercedes Lackey books to read, she is just a master of fantasy fiction. Again, not sure if this is just me, but this book also felt SPICY in a way that I’m not used to. The characters are filled with righteous anger that I think is common to many of her books but they are also very pissed and dogged and ready to fuck things up to fix them in a way that I adored but felt pretty different from her prior books.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Noelle

    I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. OVERALL: Beyond, Book 1 in the Founding of Valdemar series, is a solid classic fantasy and great series opener. High stakes and clever characters keep the reader engaged as the Valdemar we know and love slowly takes shape. For anyone who is interested in how Valdemar, the Heralds, and Companions came to be, this is a must-read. SUMMARY: In Beyond we meet Kordas, Duke of Valdemar, and his people as they try to institute I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. OVERALL: Beyond, Book 1 in the Founding of Valdemar series, is a solid classic fantasy and great series opener. High stakes and clever characters keep the reader engaged as the Valdemar we know and love slowly takes shape. For anyone who is interested in how Valdemar, the Heralds, and Companions came to be, this is a must-read. SUMMARY: In Beyond we meet Kordas, Duke of Valdemar, and his people as they try to institute The Plan to escape the evil Empire. Generations in the making, The Plan consists of gathering enough supplies and Gating the entire duchy, including their famed horses, far beyond the reach of the Emperor and constantly scrying mages. When Kordas is summoned to the Palace, a place he has loathed since he was a hostage there in his youth, he learns that the situation is far more dire than he knew and there are more innocents he must save. CHARACTERS: Our main POV characters are Kordas and his young sister-in-law, Delia. Both are well-rounded with clear motivations and flaws to overcome. Kordas is kind despite his upbringing and willing to make hard choices to save his people. Lackey implies heavily that Kordas struggles with a past he is not proud of, the details of which will likely be exposed in forthcoming titles. Delia is portrayed as naïve but competent. Her Fetching Gift makes her a valuable asset in The Plan, but as a pampered young noble she is unused to hard work. She is infatuated with Kordas, the brother-in-law who rode in on a shining horse to save her from the cruelty of the Emperor, but the inevitable conflict of this subplot has yet to surface. There is also a decent amount of representation (as expected from Lackey). There are gay and cross-dressing characters, as well as characters who are imprisoned by the Empire for being “criminalized lovers.” A point is made that Valdemar is accepting of all, in sharp contrast to the rest of the Empire. WORLDBUILDING: Lackey does an excellent job establishing and describing the Empire, and how it fits into the world of Valdemar that readers are already familiar with. Because the duchy of Valdemar is so different from the rest of the Empire, much of the Empire’s evils are told to the reader instead of shown, but this works in the interest of keeping the plot moving. The story is established within the world’s history as being post-Mage Wars when magic has been depleted and mages have turned to harnessing Elemental or Abyssal forces. While the abilities of the Dolls, the possessed mannequin servants of the Palace, seemed a little too convenient and “makes-it-easy,” the limits and consequences of the magic system were otherwise well-defined. PLOT: As this is a series opener, there is a lot of set up in this novel that will not be paid off until future books. The plot moves slowly at first as little pieces of The Plan are activated, then rushes to a conclusion as Valdemar makes its escape. The story isn’t over, however, as establishing a new community in a new land will be far more difficult than getting there.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    "Beyond" is a fantasy novel. I've been reading the Valdemar novels since I was a teenager, and I felt like this was targeted at longtime fans (now adults) rather than teenagers. This also didn't follow the typical novel format and seemed more of a detailed explanation of how to escape an evil empire--which will interest longtime fans, but maybe is not the best story for people start off with. Every time something seemed to go wrong, that just turned into an opportunity to more effectively escape "Beyond" is a fantasy novel. I've been reading the Valdemar novels since I was a teenager, and I felt like this was targeted at longtime fans (now adults) rather than teenagers. This also didn't follow the typical novel format and seemed more of a detailed explanation of how to escape an evil empire--which will interest longtime fans, but maybe is not the best story for people start off with. Every time something seemed to go wrong, that just turned into an opportunity to more effectively escape rather than actually set back or threaten their escape plans. Add to that all of the details of how they made the Gate, the types of things they took, how they were going to survive on the other side in the wilderness, etc., and it wasn't very suspenseful until the very end. I was also disappointed that the author changed the air elementals. The "truth" is now simply a deeply held personal belief rather than a fact. In past books, they were used to determine if someone was telling the truth in a criminal case. Under the current definition, though, someone could deeply believe that putting poison in someone's food was not murder because the victim wasn't forced to eat that food. They could "truthfully" answer that they did not poison or murder someone as that person killed themselves. Anyway. The world building was obviously very in-depth. The characters were engaging, and Kordas was determined to save as many people as possible even if it meant sacrificing himself. Happily, he was also willing to listen to advice and so came up with better plans than his own. Frankly, I found the enslaved air elementals to be the most interesting characters even though I also felt that this story was not consistent with what was previously told about them. There was no sex. There was a fair amount of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to long time fans of the series. I received an ebook review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ann Brookens

    A new chapter- the oldest- in the history of Valdemar Mercedes Lackey continues to surpass my expectations. Beginning with Arrows of the Queen so many years ago, I've read every word she has written about Valdemar. Mere glancing references to the legendary origins of the country are finally being fleshed out with a full cast of interesting characters and a delicious narrative that I positively INHALED without pause. Duke Valdemar's experiences in the Emperor's palace had me involuntarily compari A new chapter- the oldest- in the history of Valdemar Mercedes Lackey continues to surpass my expectations. Beginning with Arrows of the Queen so many years ago, I've read every word she has written about Valdemar. Mere glancing references to the legendary origins of the country are finally being fleshed out with a full cast of interesting characters and a delicious narrative that I positively INHALED without pause. Duke Valdemar's experiences in the Emperor's palace had me involuntarily comparing those of Grand Duke Tremane in Storm Rising, which takes place hundreds of years later. After all the tumult occuring here, I am very interested to see where Misty goes next in founding her beloved country. So very many of us have been at her elbow for years, eagerly snatching her newest offering, building our own images of Valdemar. Thank you, Misty, for finally going back to the beginning.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy Gentilini

    Wow just wow.... I've been a diehard mercedes lackey fan for over 20 years and i've been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for her to give us the full story on how Valdemar started. We have snippets and stories from all the released book but this just blew me away. i was so hooked into reading the books i accidently snapped at my husband because be bothered me while reading it. apparently he forgot the closer the book is to my face the less you need to bother while reading because i'm engro Wow just wow.... I've been a diehard mercedes lackey fan for over 20 years and i've been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for her to give us the full story on how Valdemar started. We have snippets and stories from all the released book but this just blew me away. i was so hooked into reading the books i accidently snapped at my husband because be bothered me while reading it. apparently he forgot the closer the book is to my face the less you need to bother while reading because i'm engrossed. But this was very well done, the surprises were actually surprising, and the choices the characters make might not be the greatest but were the best they could do in a horrible situation.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    A return to form for the Valdemar books! While I really enjoyed the earlier Valdemar works, I've been underwhelmed by the last three series featuring Mags and his family. Beyond seems more like those earlier works, with more sweeping characters and outcomes. I quite liked Kordas as the main character- he reminds me a touch of Alberich and Vanyel, which is all to the good, and I can see how he'll make an excellent first ruler for Valdemar. Things I wasn't so fond of- I would have liked to see mor A return to form for the Valdemar books! While I really enjoyed the earlier Valdemar works, I've been underwhelmed by the last three series featuring Mags and his family. Beyond seems more like those earlier works, with more sweeping characters and outcomes. I quite liked Kordas as the main character- he reminds me a touch of Alberich and Vanyel, which is all to the good, and I can see how he'll make an excellent first ruler for Valdemar. Things I wasn't so fond of- I would have liked to see more of Delia. She's set up as the second narrating character but we spend significantly less of the book with her than we do with Kordas and I would have liked to see more development and impact happening on her end of things. I also felt a little like the final act was a bit rushed; the end of the 'the plan' felt very chaotic and I wasn't quite sure what was actually planned a number of times. I also, to be honest, would have liked to see us lose a character. Some of the better Valdemar books make it clear early on that you are going to see people you like not make it (spoilers: Urtho, Ylsa, Ulrich, Tylendel) and I think that sets the tone early for it to be a more serious series. I think that was something missing in the series with Mags, and the stakes here were high enough that I would have liked to see some actual consequences for the characters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    I went into this one totally blind – I have never in my life read a Mercedes Lackey book (until now); all I knew was that the people who love her books, like, really love her books. This book showed me exactly why. Beyond is a prequel to, to my understanding, all of Lackey’s series, which consists of over ten series, all set in the kingdom of Valdemar. Would this book be richer if I had read the other books? Probably! Was this book still a great read? Absolutely! Beyond tells the story of the fou I went into this one totally blind – I have never in my life read a Mercedes Lackey book (until now); all I knew was that the people who love her books, like, really love her books. This book showed me exactly why. Beyond is a prequel to, to my understanding, all of Lackey’s series, which consists of over ten series, all set in the kingdom of Valdemar. Would this book be richer if I had read the other books? Probably! Was this book still a great read? Absolutely! Beyond tells the story of the founding of Valdemar, the city where the rest of her series takes place. It follows the Duke of Valdemar, Kordas, and the plot that he and his family concoct to escape the reign of a sinister emperor. It is equal parts funny and sad, and I am now so invested in these people and their lives that I have added all the other books in the series to my ever-expanding TBR list. The point of view switches between Kordas and Delia, who is the sister of Kordas’ wife. For most of the book, Kordas is placed in the Emperor’s Court, removed from the plan he has spent his whole life working towards. Delia, her sister, and the others situated at Valdemar are attempting the plan without their figurehead by their sides – a tricky undertaking. I really enjoyed the community of Valdemar, and how much they were all working together to escape the encroaching crush of the Emperor. It is hard to raise the stakes in a book written as a prequel for an already existing series (since we all know how it’s going to end), but Lackey has done an excellent job at endearing the reader to all the characters and creating a storyline which is easy to get invested in. Kordas is a traditional hero, righteous and honourable, and while the characters may be simplistic for some, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the way all characters worked in tandem to create a book rich with lore. There’s an amazing fantasy element to it, too, with Lackey’s magic system allowing for teleportation via Gates, as well as an incredible array of Elemental beings (some of whom I am now awfully fond of). One thing that I would like to note is that this book is tagged with LGBT+. This tag does not pertain to any of the main characters – the two characters in question are side characters who get very little page time, so just be aware of that going in. This book was an excellent primer for what I understand is an even more excellent series. I can’t wait to read more books set in this world. Thank you to NetGalley and to Penguin/DAW Publishers for an ARC of this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Giving this a 4 but if I had my critical hat on it would probably be a 3. But it's Valdemar, and it's like a warm blanket, a hug or a bath. If there is anything that is the opposite of grimdark (?happylight?) then this is it. Yes there's a baddie, and on paper he is awful and terrible things have happened to people but we just have absolute faith that the actually all ridiculously nice people in Valdemar (even one of the bad guys turns out to be a good guy in disguise!) - and they are all just r Giving this a 4 but if I had my critical hat on it would probably be a 3. But it's Valdemar, and it's like a warm blanket, a hug or a bath. If there is anything that is the opposite of grimdark (?happylight?) then this is it. Yes there's a baddie, and on paper he is awful and terrible things have happened to people but we just have absolute faith that the actually all ridiculously nice people in Valdemar (even one of the bad guys turns out to be a good guy in disguise!) - and they are all just ridiculously nice - will triumph over whatever is thrown at them. So there's no real stakes here. And lots and lots of information about horses, horse breeding and horse management. Now I love horses, and have 3, so this is all great. But if you don't share my (and Duke Valdemar's) interest in horses some of these pages will probably drag. There's also a very cute well-trained dog and a cameo by Sydney you Asshat the cat who is close to stealing the whole show (and gets the last line!). If you really squint at the story you can read it as a critique of the Trump administration, the dangers of automation, and the attitudes of the conservative Right but really it's just a nice story about horses (none of whom are harmed in the making of this book btw). I'm looking forward to maybe a little more peril and the advent of the Companions in future books.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sean Talbot

    I was so excited to hear that this author was releasing books about the founding of Valdemar. It is one of my favourite series in fantasy with so much depth of characters. I found I was slightly disappointed, not because the book isn’t good. It was written very well. The problem I have is that it looks to have contradicted some of the books that we had read in the past. I was actually hoping for much more. I wanted to see more about people of the Empire but they seem to not have really pushed too I was so excited to hear that this author was releasing books about the founding of Valdemar. It is one of my favourite series in fantasy with so much depth of characters. I found I was slightly disappointed, not because the book isn’t good. It was written very well. The problem I have is that it looks to have contradicted some of the books that we had read in the past. I was actually hoping for much more. I wanted to see more about people of the Empire but they seem to not have really pushed too much into why the Empire is the way it is. The political parts of the book showed a lot of thought and really made you wonder just how this Empire had survived. I enjoyed that part I think the most as it just showed a lot of what could happen in a corrupt society. The main character seems nothing like what I imagined. Is he good hearted? Yes. He just felt so distant and not really the nicest of people. I do think that his time in the Empire is showing that he had been manipulated and while he does try and rise above it all it seems he failed. There was so much good about this book.  Learning about the baron and seeing what he was really like gives some great insights into why valdemar became as it did. Kordas is a very strong character however his magic seems not as strong as what I would assumed.  He seemed to really not have too much of it relying on others to do the magical works. Imagery in this book made me smile at times especially when he is helping with the birth of a foal.  The analogies were very strong and of course I do get a perverse pleasure when they talked about the gassiness of the mare. This was a good start however despite my love of this book there was a lot more that I wanted to see.  I wanted to see them fleeing the empire and really the founding starting.  This will be great series and I hope it solves some of what we see in the current valdemar

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    If you, like me, grew up on Mercedes Lackey stories, the tale of the founding of Valdemar has been a long time coming. And this opening volume did not disappoint. Duke Kordas Valdemar leads a tiny, bucolic Duchy most known for breeding the famous Valdemar Gold horses. After generations of dealing with an exploitative and evil emperor, the Valdemar dukes and their families have been developing The Plan, a way to escape the Empire and protect their people. With things getting continuously worse, Ko If you, like me, grew up on Mercedes Lackey stories, the tale of the founding of Valdemar has been a long time coming. And this opening volume did not disappoint. Duke Kordas Valdemar leads a tiny, bucolic Duchy most known for breeding the famous Valdemar Gold horses. After generations of dealing with an exploitative and evil emperor, the Valdemar dukes and their families have been developing The Plan, a way to escape the Empire and protect their people. With things getting continuously worse, Kordas is constantly stressed and trying to find ways to trick the Emperor’s spies into ignoring his Duchy. Then one of their mages has a breakthrough and they finally have a way to place a Gate so far from the Empire that it’s unlikely the Emperor can follow them. To add another layer of complication, Kordas gets called to court and has to try to act the country bumpkin long enough to let the people of Valdemar flee before they get dragged into the Imperial wars. Mercedes Lackey was one of the first adult fantasy authors that I read while growing up, and her books were definitely where I found my love of the genre. Especially fantasy romance, not that I knew that that was its own sub-genre at the time (check out the Bardic Voices trilogy if you haven’t already). As an adult, my reading has gone in a different direction, but getting back into the world of Valdemar (or at least its creation) felt very nostalgic. I enjoyed the dual perspectives of seeing the story from the eyes of both Kordas and Delia, his sister-in-law. We got to feel the maturity and world-weariness of Kordas and the young, sometimes immature thoughts of Delia. Admittedly, she’s 16, so she is immature; I liked that we actually saw that. We also get to see The Plan really come to fruition across the Empire. There’s a diverse cast of characters we get to know as well (can we have Hakkon and Jonaton’s story please?). As a whole, there was a bit of tell-not-show situation going on in terms of the world-building, but that’s not atypical for a Mercedes Lackey book. Having information frequently get conveyed from “elders” makes it feel more natural than some books that have too much info dumping. I think my only hang-up is that it seems like The Plan goes too well. Shouldn’t more things go wrong? Shouldn’t there be more danger? Given what we know of the developed world of Valdemar of previous books though, I think the rest of this series will definitely bring in more of these struggles. Obviously, if you love Mercedes Lackey, you have to read this book. It fits so well into the overall world of her backlist. However, I don’t recommend starting with this story if you’ve never read anything by this author before, as it might feel a bit incomplete without the backstory of knowing where everything is ultimately going. In that case, check out a couple of her other books and then give this one a try! This review was originally published on the Under the Covers Book Blog at https://www.underthecoversbookblog.co...

  25. 4 out of 5

    nancy ward

    About time! I'm so glad Mercedes started the story of the founding of Valdemar. It's everything I hoped for and more. It is consistent with all the hints in prior novels (like the depravity of the Empire.) Ms Lackey cleverly put delightful things in the story like the friendship with his Herald, his compassion for others suffering from the cruelties of the Empire. The biggest surprise for me was when the dolls confessed they were vrondi. A while ago I wrote the author asking her to write about ba About time! I'm so glad Mercedes started the story of the founding of Valdemar. It's everything I hoped for and more. It is consistent with all the hints in prior novels (like the depravity of the Empire.) Ms Lackey cleverly put delightful things in the story like the friendship with his Herald, his compassion for others suffering from the cruelties of the Empire. The biggest surprise for me was when the dolls confessed they were vrondi. A while ago I wrote the author asking her to write about baron Valdemar and how it all started. I like to think my email was encouraging. I'm excited thinking this is book one: there's more to come!!!!!!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Another visit to Valdemar, this time before it was in its present location. Half the book deals with preparation to covertly move the population, and half deal with court intrigue and cruelty. The book ended in an unexpected was that did not satisfy me. I hope there will be sequels that explore the beginnings of life in this new land. It's not kid-friendly, as there's some casual profanity. Typos that I flagged: Nut sac was twice spelled with a K , on pages 217 and 218. An anatomical sac doesn't ha Another visit to Valdemar, this time before it was in its present location. Half the book deals with preparation to covertly move the population, and half deal with court intrigue and cruelty. The book ended in an unexpected was that did not satisfy me. I hope there will be sequels that explore the beginnings of life in this new land. It's not kid-friendly, as there's some casual profanity. Typos that I flagged: Nut sac was twice spelled with a K , on pages 217 and 218. An anatomical sac doesn't have a K.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Loved it!! I've been waiting a long time for the story of the Founding of Valdemar. Some unusual aspects to the story, which takes place after the events in the White Gryphon series (or concurrently with some of it). Duke Valdemar and his family are unhappy with life in the Empire and work towards getting out of the Empire and into a land that is less developed where they can be free from the Emperor's tyranny. This is book one in a new trilogy, which means I have to wait two years to find out t Loved it!! I've been waiting a long time for the story of the Founding of Valdemar. Some unusual aspects to the story, which takes place after the events in the White Gryphon series (or concurrently with some of it). Duke Valdemar and his family are unhappy with life in the Empire and work towards getting out of the Empire and into a land that is less developed where they can be free from the Emperor's tyranny. This is book one in a new trilogy, which means I have to wait two years to find out the entire story, but I found this to be a well-written start to the Founding.

  28. 5 out of 5

    June

    "When anyone is preoccupied only with staying alive, it is damned near impossible to embrace the fact that a better future is even possible. That's why poverty is a form of suppression - it keeps people without power from thinking to big." "When a ruler gives up on empathy and sentiment, it is a sign of desperation...Contempt for kindness and generosity is the surest sign there is that someone has nothing else left to them but a horrible emptiness much worse than weakness." I am a huge Lackey fan "When anyone is preoccupied only with staying alive, it is damned near impossible to embrace the fact that a better future is even possible. That's why poverty is a form of suppression - it keeps people without power from thinking to big." "When a ruler gives up on empathy and sentiment, it is a sign of desperation...Contempt for kindness and generosity is the surest sign there is that someone has nothing else left to them but a horrible emptiness much worse than weakness." I am a huge Lackey fan and the damming dedication is worth getting the book. Duke Kordas has inherited a plan from his father and before to escape with those dependent on him from the tyranny of the Empire. Finally, the plan is coming to fruition. However, when he is called to the Emperor's Court Kordas keeps discovering more that need rescuing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A return to the cozy comfort of a good Valdemar read. OTOH -- and mind you, this is hidden for spoilers -- what the actual fuck was that ending? He melts the capitol and the -entire reason- for the rest of the series. Wtf?? I'm still going to read on because I can always do with more *adult* Valdemar stories (looking at you Mags) but why do that? :| A return to the cozy comfort of a good Valdemar read. OTOH -- and mind you, this is hidden for spoilers -- what the actual fuck was that ending? He melts the capitol and the -entire reason- for the rest of the series. Wtf?? I'm still going to read on because I can always do with more *adult* Valdemar stories (looking at you Mags) but why do that? :|

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    I get the feeling that this is a backstory Misty has been dying to tell; the story is intricate and mostly (isn't his wife's name supposed to be Terilee?) accurate to the backstory of Valdemar as it's previously been given. Also, thank you for not wedging me into any villain's head at any point, I was (and am) really tired of that. The vrondi, omg. I get the feeling that this is a backstory Misty has been dying to tell; the story is intricate and mostly (isn't his wife's name supposed to be Terilee?) accurate to the backstory of Valdemar as it's previously been given. Also, thank you for not wedging me into any villain's head at any point, I was (and am) really tired of that. The vrondi, omg.

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