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Mercedes Lackey rec post

A while back, spiderstars asked me for some recommendations related to the author Mercedes Lackey, as she had heard myself and other raving about Lackey. For anyone who isn’t acquainted with her work, Lackey is a fantasy author who has been writing for almost 25 years, whose works range from high fantasy, to retold fairy tales, to urban fantasy—and yes I know all those are covered by saying “fantasy author,” but the reason I bring them up is because the area of her work with which I am most familiar is her high fantasy, specifically her books revolving around the country of Valdemar, where white horses can be semi-holy spirits bonded to the peace-keeping corps known as the Chosen. It’s seriously a great world, and I love (almost) all the books set there, but I discovered something very important when I was re-checking out her books for recommendations: there is no single book or series that would work as a good introduction to Lackeys’ writing and the world.

Now, you might ask “What about the original series? She must have started somewhere with this world,” to which I would say “yes, but her writing from twenty years ago kind of blows” (which is not quite true, as I very much enjoy and will be recommending some of her 20-year-old books, just…not the ones with which she introduced Valdemar). And of course, this leaves me in a quandary. I very much want to introduce others to the world, but cannot simply say “read this, it will give you everything you might need.” The solution? Write an entire Livejournal entry of course!

All right, presumably no one not everyone reading this wants to read every opinion I ever had on all her books, and I honestly don’t want to give every opinion I ever had, since I’ve forgotten some of them. So here’s how it’s going to work. Three sections, each devoted to the different worlds in which her writing takes place. A rating system out of five stars explaining quality of writing in book, friendliness to beginners in the world, and then slightly longer blurbs on what the book might be about, and occasionally an expansion on why you might [pluses] (or might not [minuses]) want to read it. See, organized. I’m obviously not doing every book, just the ones I like and remember well enough to rate.

VALDEMAR

“Arrows” trilogy
Writing: **
Friendly: *****
Blurb: As this was her first series ever, it sets the stage quite nicely for the rest of the world…but the writing is not good. Pluses do include canon lesbians, an interesting main character, and an actual plotline involving a child that isn’t completely trite; minuses include horribly dull love interests, very obvious and occasionally even dull plot(s), and just…not very good writing.

The Last Herald Mage trilogy
Writing: ***1/2
Friendly: ****1/2
Blurb: Okay, I love this series in the same way you love your favorite, fairly well written soap opera: it’s like a train wreck but you can’t help getting out the popcorn and yelling at the passengers. Mixed metaphors there, but you get it. Pluses include a main character who is gay and has an interesting, well rounded character, good characters in general, and some really cool intricate history and politics (or is that just me that likes those?); minuses include…umm…depression, a warning for suicide, and some reeeeeally maudlin writing. Like super maudlin. Also depending on how you view it, stereotyped gay character, but I’d rather not go into the complications of that here so leave me a comment if you’re really curious.

The Oath books
Writing: ***1/2
Friendly: ****
Blurb: These appeared in a past 10th of Awesome, so I won’t say much, but I will mention they aren’t set in Valdemar at all, so they act more as stand alone books. Just go read ‘em.

Collegium Chronicles
Writing: ****1/2
Friendly: **1/2
Blurb: This is the series Lackey is currently working on. It’s honestly really good, although it doesn’t have the background some of the others do, so probably not a good idea for beginning readers. Pluses include everything you could expect from an experienced writer who can shape good characters; minuses include a very accurate portrayal of clinical depression.

Miscellaneous stand-alone novels
List: Brightly Burning, By The Sword, Take A Thief, Exile’s Honor, Exile’s Valor
Blurb: All of these work well as stand alones, so you could read them as a sample if you didn’t want to get into a full series. Probably the best among them is the Exile pair, although all are at least worth a casual read.


THE ELEMENTAL MASTERS

These are all historical fantasy, starting I think in the mid 1800s, although don’t quote me on that. They are also all romance (secondary to the plot in the majority of cases) and all based loosely on some fairytale or another. I’m actually not going to do these individually because they (almost) all stand by themselves and are quite good. The reason I bring it up is because I like the series, I know at least two people on my flist have a weakness for retold fairytales, and to say: whatever you do, don’t read Unnatural Issue. It is the worst Lackey book I have ever read, confusing, not at all reader friendly, and boring through at least 100 pages, and I would have dropped it in a hot minute if I hadn’t been holding out hope for Lackey to be better than that. So don’t read it. Just don’t.


TALES OF THE FIVE HUNDRED KINGDOMS

These are all fantasy, fairytale-oriented, with a twist. Lackey actually uses a really cool concept here, wherein the 500 fairytale kingdoms have a force called the Tradition which pushes all of the people who qualify for a certain fairytale path (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, etc.) down that path as hard as it can, and the Fairy Godmothers are around to try and keep everything from screwing up too badly (think about it: kids going off into woods to eat houses ALL THE TIME). The entire series is funny, clever, and, again, made up of stand-alone novels that you can generally just pick up and put down. It does focus a lot more on the romance side of the coin, however, and please avoid The Sleeping Beauty. It’s not as bad as Unnatural Issue, but it is certainly disappointing.


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As for other Lackey series, my sister followed the Elves on the Road (specifically, on motorcycles on the road) series for a while and seemed to enjoy it, and other than that I really don’t know much about her other series. But I hope this helps anyone looking for a good high fantasy/historical fantasy/retold fairytale read. If you’re looking for something else, then ask and maybe I can rec another author some other time. :)

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
tommyrotter
Jul. 10th, 2011 05:17 pm (UTC)
Oh! I cannot promise when, but the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series really caught my fancy and I'm curious what you would suggest as far as someone first starting into that series? It'll probably be down the road for me, as I am the slowest reader, but I'd like to keep an eye out :)
aeirol
Jul. 11th, 2011 01:39 am (UTC)
:D I'd actually go for the first book in the series, The Fairy Godmother. It was written during what must be my favorite period of Lackey's writing, during the early 2000's to about 2007, and is a really good book, and an excellent introduction to the universe. Plus, some bitchin' characters.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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