After five months, five books, a whole lot of Kirball, and a boatload of teen angst (from the characters, not from the readers), Jackie, Mel, and I have completed Mercedes Lackey’s Collegiate Chronicles, which turned out to be not at all about the founding of the Heraldic Collegium at all (much to our surprise). What was it about? A boy named Mags whose parents were killed with he was a baby (or perhaps a toddler). He was sold to a corrupt family and put to work in their mine as soon as he was able to complete basic tasks. His life of slavery was destined to be miserable and short until one day a white horse appeared. Soon after, one of the legendary Heralds of Valdemar appeared and put the fear of the gods into the corrupt mining family and whisked Mags to freedom– and to meet Mags’s own Companion, a mystical white horse with abilities as special as Mags’s were. Soon, Mags found himself in the Valdemaran capitol of Haven, where he happened to catch the eyes of several powerful personages and wound up in the midst of all sorts of political intrigues, along with his ambiguously aged teenage friends Bear, Lena, and Amily. Through the (unknown number of) years, they dealt with (entirely too many) family troubles, vague foreign villains, and all sorts of other problems that were solved in short order– and at the very end of the books.
My overall feelings about the series? Lukewarm. I went in hoping for some political drama or plots filled with danger, and for the most part there was. . . a lot of made-up sports and teen angst.
Did the series finale rise above my expectations?
Read on and find out.
Bastion (The Collegium Chronicles #5)
by Mercedes Lackey
published in 2013
After his misadventures as a captive in a foreign land, Mags has returned home to Haven with answers about his parents and their past and why they left their homeland to seek a new life elsewhere. But the remnants of Mags’s blood relatives aren’t about to let him go. So a plan is devised to send Mags to an isolated fortress in the north to complete his circuit training- the last stage before he becomes a full Herald. The fortress is known as the Bastion, and just happens to be where Mags’s parents died. The hope is that time, distance, and a well-placed rumor will put Mags’s parents’ people off the scent so Mags can spend the rest of his life untroubled by them.
But will the plan work?
Will Mags be free of his family history? Or will be be pulled into yet another political mess from a land he’s never been to and never wants to see?
So. With that synopsis out of the way, did Bastion outdo its predecessors? Did it deliver a satisfying ending to this five-book series?
Ehh. . .
Obviously not an enthusiastic response.
I wish it had been different, but the most I can say about it is that at least I didn’t have to read a bunch of Kirball scenes. I don’t like many sports, and I enjoy reading about even fewer. Made-up sports are even lower on my list of things I enjoy reading about.
But there wasn’t a lot of Kirball.
There were a lot of shopping, however. We were treated to an extended scene of Mags and Co. shopping for perfume (a detail that went exactly nowhere in the end), shopping for other things. Doing ordinary everyday things. Fighting classes in which Mags is shown to have strange new skills and Amily is skilled in archery and other ranged weapons that she could have done from horseback (but strangely never could before, even though there are horses intelligent enough to handle disabled riders in Valdemar itself, as well as these magical sentient horse-beings known as Companions that could also deal with a rider’s disabilities. But why chose to deal with a disabled characters’ strengths when you could have her mope about them for four books until her disability is magically healed?).
It’s not until about a third of the way through the book that Mags and Co. begin to prepare for their long journey into the north. Their journey is long, and when they finally get there they do Heraldic-type things and Mags is clever enough to tell his mentor the best way to do a variety of things, and then they get snowed in (because North, obviously), and we’re treated to a bunch of other slice of life events until the trappings of a plot finally appear in the last fifty pages or so, wherein Maguffins from previous books perfectly hide people from mind magics– right up to the point where the plot needs them to not work. Then, strangely, they don’t work to hide people from mind magic.
Then there’s a big ol’ fight and the book immediately ends.
Just like that. No falling action, no epilogue, no nothing like that to end a series. Just a page or so of, “Woo! Aren’t things super great now that we’ve solved all our problems!”
You would think that, after 25 years and several dozen published titles to her name, Mercedes Lackey would know how to structure a solid story that didn’t shove the entire plot into the final quarter of the book while leaving the first three-quarters open for teen drama and family angst. But here we are, with me feeling like Lackey phoned this series in, because while I like Mags and Co., there are so many important details left out (like their ages. How old are Bear and Lena? How long has Mags been in Valdemar by the beginning of Bastion? Why haven’t we seen a story from a Herald with the Medium Gift? Because reading about a Herald who can talk to ghosts sounds incredibly interesting), while a series of inconsequential things (like Kirball and perfume shopping) are left in.
Do I regret reading the Collegium Chronicles? No. They’re quick to read, and as mentioned earlier, I enjoy reading about the characters (usually). Do I wish Lackey didn’t spend the first three books dithering about while vaguely talking about foreign bad guys before shoving the series climax into the last fifty pages of the fifth book? Heck yes. I also wish that the Collegium Chronicles about been about the Collegium, as it’s kind of an important thing in Valdemar (and in the books about Valdemar). Alas, that we’re vaguely told early on that they’re building a Collegium to educate Herald-trainees, and that some people are rabidly opposed to this, but by about book two or three, everyone is cool with the whole idea and things are going smoothly. Because that’s what happens when you introduce a major change into a society. Obviously. Everyone just goes along with it in the end.
Do I plan to continue on with the Reading Valdemar project? Yes. I’m curious about the next trilogy, The Herald Spy, and what’s in store for Mags now that he’s grown up (presumably). I just hope that Lackey finds her way to a plot at some point, because if I have to read about more shopping excursions and finding clever ways to shovel snow, I’m going to throw a book at the wall.