Sunday, December 5, 2021

Review: Beyond by Mercedes Lackey

by Mercedes Lackey
Release Date: June 15, 2021
2021 DAW Books
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0756417338
Audiobook: B09FCNH8S8
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

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.
My Thoughts
Beyond is the long-awaited story of the founding of Valdemar, and while it was a bit slower than I expected, it was still a delight to read.  And what it also did, was create a longing to re-read the entire Valdemar series of books that I haven't touched in many years and sent me hunting through my book stacks to find them all.  
I enjoyed the many characters introduced in this book, but did think a couple of them were far more developed than others.  I like the fact that Kordas was a duke at the beginning, and was quite impatient to find out how he would become a baron, or if the author conveniently forgot that about his status in previous books mentioning him.  Kordas himself didn't disappoint as he was intelligent, compassionate, and quite sly, using his wiles to play the emperor and the system into thinking he was a simple country bumpkin so his backwater dukedom would be ignored and he could go on planning for the day when he could leave the machinations of the court behind.  I loved how he finagled his way through the politics of the court and the descriptions of the events and the whole system just gave me the creeps.  
If you are familiar with the series, you will recognize a lot of the names and other important things from these books, such as Beltran. I found myself looking for these little pieces of information and was disappointed when more didn't come to light; however, considering this is simply book one of a planned trilogy, I am sure there will be more to come, including the companions.  
The plot was a bit slower than I expected, but it didn't really bother me too much as I enjoyed all of the planning that took place in order to get Kordas' people to safety.  I can't even imagine the amount of planning that was involved to undertake such a thing, and we got to witness some of it in the book.  I definitely liked how Kordas showed compassion during the planning and was willing to take chances as things developed and plans had to change as more knowledge became available. I know this sounds vague, but I don't want to give away any surprises, and there were a few that came up in this book that I was not expecting, all of them interesting.  And they are also ones to which I am wondering how they are going to play out in future books.  
The book does have a satisfying conclusion even if it is the first book of a trilogy as the author is known for ensuring each book concludes in its own right.  And while I definitely enjoyed the story because I was interested in another Valdermar story, I was also deliberately looking for links from previous books to see if I could find any.  And the discrepancies, of course.  I don't see how you cannot. I had to remind myself to read it for itself as the plots and subterfuge were great, and I loved all the spying that went on.  And what Kordas discovered when he went to the palace is probably my favourite part of the book, something I looked forward to reading about every time we returned to his POV.   

Beyond was a good start to a new trilogy and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  And while I thought the overall plot was a bit weak, I definitely enjoyed the subterfuge and the spying that went on as Kordas was planning his greatest deception.  The magic system wasn't very well described however, and the legendary companions have yet to make an appearance, although I can't wait until they do.  I honestly don't know how this book will come across to someone who has no knowledge of the previous books, but for me, it was useful to have read them. I can't wait until the next book, Into the West, is released next year.