Mercedes Lackey is one of the most prolific authors I know of, and I can’t think of anyone who comes even close to her publication schedule in the fantasy genre. She’s best known for her Heralds of Valdemar series, and Redoubt is her latest release for The Collegium Chronicles, set in Valdemar.
Warning: I’m assuming at this point that you’ve read at least one book set in Valdemar for the purposes of this review. If you haven’t, I would recommend that you go read just about any other Valdemar book before this one, as there’s a lot of worldbuilding that Lackey assumes you’re already familiar with; she does not waste her time or yours rehashing it.
Where’s the plot?
I’m not even going to attempt to give you a plot summary for this book. I was a little confused when I read the publisher summary, as it was nothing but a review of the previous three books in The Collegium Chronicles. When I started writing this review, I realized that this may be the only way to introduce the book, because of how the book is set up.
The book opens with a lovely royal wedding and a reintroduction of Mags (the protagonist) and his friends and mentors. And then the book slumps almost immediately because there is no conflict directly involving Mags, only Lackey having fun in the world she loves best. Now, Valdemar happens to be one of my favorite made-up worlds, so I gamely read along. Right in the middle of the book, out of literally nowhere, suddenly Mags finds a conflict and the story picks up. But it’s now literally the middle of the book. So this tension and conflict has half the normal time to resolve, making Redoubt feel more like two stitched together novellas than a single, whole, cohesive novel. These pacing and plot issues really killed the book for me.
There were good things, I swear!
Redoubt does do a few things well. First, it’s not often than an author lets a protagonist step aside in such a believable manner for the secondary characters to really shine through. What little conflict there is in the first half of the novel revolves around one of Mags’ friends, the Healer Trainee Bear. Lackey is a master at characterization, so it’s nice to see her flex her muscles detailing characters that other authors would leave in broader brushstrokes. Lackey also takes us deeper into Mags’ head, particularly in dealing with his past before he was Chosen. Mags is the most abused and emotionally crippled character that Lackey has ever written—and considering some of her other characters, that’s saying something. I can do nothing but applaud Lackey’s skill as she believably guides Mags through the process of building himself out of nothing piece by piece.
Why you should read this book
I love The Heralds of Valdemar. It was one of the first fantasy series I ever read, and I’ve read every single book in the series at least once. That being said, I read Redoubt because of the series, not because there was anything special about it. After reading it, that’s about all I can still say. I’m hoping that in the future, The Collegium Chronicles will really pick up and become something special in and of itself, but I’m not convinced so far. If you also love Valdemar and are looking for a quick read, Redoubt fits the bill; but if you’re looking for Lackey at her best, I’m afraid you’ll have to content yourself with her earlier works.