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Review: “Choices” Edited by Mercedes Lackey

The twelfth anthology of short stories set in the beloved Valdemar universe, featuring stories by debut and established authors and a brand-new story from Lackey herself.

The Heralds of Valdemar are the kingdom’s ancient order of protectors. They are drawn from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages–and all are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more. These inborn talents–combined with training as emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counselors, warriors, and more–make them indispensable to their monarch and realm. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horse-like Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. The Heralds of Valdemar and their Companions ride circuit throughout the kingdom, protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.

Now, twenty-three authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique voices to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this beloved fantasy realm.

I’ve been reading the Valdemar series for a long time, since the first herald book, “Arrows of the Queen”. It has been one of the best series I’ve read but I lost track of some of the anthologies. When I saw a new anthology was out, I was eager to read it, especially with some of the authors I saw listed. It was like coming home, a familiar world with new characters for me to enjoy.
There are a wide range of stories. Some include heralds doing heroic deeds but some are of simple people doing the best they can, making choices that impact themselves and others. Whether with heroic deeds or not, each story satisfies but readers will need to be familiar with the world of Valdemar and heralds.
I like most of the stories in the anthology but there were a few that stood out. First, I really loved Mercedes Lackey’s story featuring the ensouled sword Need. The characters were engaging, the story simple but elegant and the story features the type of twist that was unique and interesting. It is one of her best short stories to date and as trailblazing as her Herald Mage novels.
But her story wasn’t the only one that was engaging and complex. “Letters from Home” by Brigid Collins was especially moving. The character leaves behind an entire lice and must work up the courage to look back home. I like that the author resists the urge to fix everything but has the character take baby steps while gaining the support that she needs to take those steps. It’s not easy moving on without the ones we love by our side.
Another story that I loved was “Beyond Common Sense, She Persisted “ by Janny Wurts. She has a lovely way with words and her characters pop from the page. If you took her name of the story, i would still recognize her indelible style and I loved her spin on the Collegium and the world of Valdemar.
“The Right Place” by Louisa Swann was another of my favorite choices. It features a fisher boy whose empathy with a special horse leads him into trouble but his choice to help is the right one. I liked it because the character wasn’t a Herald and didn’t expect reward for his help. It was choice made from his heart.
The last story of my top picks is “Acceptable Losses” by Stephanie Shaver. This story features Herald whose dealt with losses and has a daughter but is also trying to deal with a threat to Valdemar. His struggle is picking the right choice that will prevent the most loss, including his own. I liked the characters and the solution to the problem.
There are some stories that aren’t as engaging but overall, each story reflects the theme of the anthology in its own way. Whether the main character is a Herald, a bard, a healer, a warrior, or a common person, they’ve each had to makes a choice that fits with the world of Mercedes Lackey. If you aren’t as familiar with Mercedes Lackey and her most popular series, her world of Velgarth, you might find yourself a touch lost on some terminology but most of the stories will still be worth the read. If you are a fan, it will be like returning home.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Heralds

The book comes out on Amazon on November 27th.
Choices on Amazon

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