Into the West (The Founding of Valdemar #2)
by Mercedes Lackey
Expected publication date: December 13, 2022
Though the people of Baron Valdemar’s lands have fled the tyrannical empire, they have more problems ahead of them. With 15,000 people having magically and suddenly appeared on the shores of Crescent Lake, the lake and its surroundings simply cannot support them all for a long period of time. Baron Kordas Valdemar and his leadership circle knew this would be a problem, but now they’re facing the reality of dealing with it. And so Kordas turns his attention to dealing with the situation by pointing his people westward, into a wild land emptied of inhabitants long ago after a massive battle between two nearly all-powerful mages twisted the land and the creatures that lived there. The farther people travel, the stranger things get. They are hunted by impossible-seeming creatures, and soon it becomes apparent that they’re not as alone as they thought they were.
Every good real estate agent knows the three more important parts of finding a new home: location, location, location. The same would seem to be true when you’re traveling through unknown and magical lands, but for Mercedes Lackey in this story, the three most important elements are actually logistics, logistics, logistics. One of the hallmarks of the majority of Lackey’s stories are the hypercompetent people going out and solving difficult problems. As Kordas Valdemar was raised to think of all the possible problems– and the solutions for those problems– that he and his people might face in their travels, the incessant logistics usually make sense (though I’m not inclined to believe that a man with medieval levels of knowledge will know about ecosystems or microorganisms present in lakes). The problem arises from how incessant the logistics are after the first several chapters. Does one really wish to hear about the processes by which the people of Valdemar deal with manure multiple times? Probably not.
Fortunately, the characters rise above Lacke’s logistical obsession. Kordas learns what it takes to rule an independent land, Delia learns that she is a productive member of society and that she can do amazing things on her own. There definitely could be more from the other characters– the Six, for example, or Hakkon or Jonaton are all colorful enough to warrant more page time than they receive, and that’s a shame. Some of the ink devoted to detailing manure disposal or the management of river banks could have been devoted to their exploits instead.
Still, though logistics and social problem-solving are at the forefront of the book, it is still an entertaining read. There is an immense appeal to reading about hypercompetent people solving their problems and making impossible situations work out, and if certain issues are wrapped up very conveniently, well, that is another hallmark of Lackey’s Valdemar novels. There are problems to solve, clever quips to be made, and happy endings to achieve. The clever people are out there doing clever things, and it’s a nice change from reality to watch them go about their business, cut through metaphorical red tape, and just get things done. So while the lengthy discussions of logistics might get a little old after a while, they’re well-seasoned by fun character elements and development, which makes the less interesting bits less dry.
Mercedes Lackey may not be the most adventurous of writers, but she knows how to deliver a satisfying story with familiar beats and tropes that keep her readers coming back for more. Into the West is another entry in a long line of entertaining books that gives readers a look into a world where, unlike reality, a society’s leaders spend the majority of their time thinking of ways to make life better for everyone.