I actually read the next book in my reading marathon of the Heralds of Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey during this past week, which was Storm Rising (fantasy 412 pages), the second book in The Mage Storms trilogy.
“The dire threat of war with the powerful, sorcerous, Eastern Empire has forced the kingdom of Valdemar into an uneasy coalition with its traditional enemy, the neighboring kingdom of Karse. But now, mysterious mage-storms are wreaking havoc on both Valdemar and Karse, plaguing these lands not only with disastrous earthquakes, monsoons, and ice storms, but also with venomous magical constructs – terrifying creatures out of nightmare. As Valdemar’s Heralds and Karse’s Sun-Priests struggle to marshal their combined magical resources to protect their realms from these devastating, spell-fueled onslaughts, the still fragile alliance between these long-hostile lands begins to fray. Only the personal intervention of Solaris, the High Priestess and ruler of Karse, can defuse what is rapidly becoming a dangerously explosive situation. But Solaris also confirms the worst fears of the Heralds – that these storms come from a mysterious, unknown source. And unless Valdemar and Karse can locate and destroy the elusive and enigmatic cause of these storms, they will see their entire world demolished in a final magical holocaust.”
I think one of the oddest things to me about this second book is that the ending really felt like it ought to be the end of the series. Having read this series before and also owning all three of the books in the series, I knew there was a third book in the series, but the ending of this book really felt like it was or could have been the end of the storyline.
This book is interesting in the sense that it clearly demonstrates that the people wouldn’t have gotten to where they did without an incredibly diverse group of people working together to solve a common problem. Solving the problem in this book required a variety of different religious backgrounds, a very diverse selection of races, ethnicities, genders, and even different career fields. Magic and science had to work hand-in-hand, as well as religious leaders from very different belief systems, and even humans and non-humans. Everyone had to contribute a piece of the solution and because of this diversity, they were able to find more information and more resources than each set individually had access to. There’s even a section on page 379 that specifically discusses the role of diversity in finding solutions to this particular concern: “After all the tumultuous months of bickering, near-blood-feud, fear, derision, and anger, they held more than just nebulous hope in their hands. Inventive minds, people of different cultures and backgrounds, had come together and despite the friction between them, had held on to reason.”
I think this is really important, especially with everything that’s going on in the world right now. Diversity is very important and without it, we are lacking in our ability to positively impact the world in which we live. People can be different from each other in absolutely every way imaginable and still not only become friends but create something wonderful together.
Also in the realms of diversity is the continued view of different religions being complimentary to each other. An’desha is particularly amusing on page 220 where he is discussing his hopes that Jarim will have a more open mind when dealing with the other council members: “As if being singled out by Avatars made me any wiser! If anything, I suspect it only proves that I am a bit slower than others, and need the extra help!” This section actually made me chuckle out loud because I often feel that way, as though being singled out only really shows that I need more help than others who can accomplish their tasks without assistance. Especially things like math, which is one of my greater struggles.
I really wish that the world religions could get along like they do in Valdemar. Not to say the fictional world is without its faults, but their rules are enforced for everyone, including their religious laws. Page 64 has a really great description of the religions of Valdemar: “The single rule that each of them must obey if they wish to continue practicing in Valdemar is ‘live and let live.’ You can proselytize as much as you wish, but you may not persecute, harass, intimidate, or otherwise make a nuisance of yourself. The secular laws of Valdemar take precedence over the dictates of every religion. No matter how deeply your religious feeling is offended by something allowed according to the religious practices of your neighbor, you have no right to force him to live by your rules, and no right to try to.”
Overall, this book is also a solid three on my rating scale. Karal is a very average character and even though he isn’t supposed to be someone special, his dedication to his duties, his faith, and his mercy and concern for others make him someone easily worthy of being considered a true hero. And, in a lot of ways, he shows us that true heroes are those who work day-to-day to make the world a better place and who genuinely care about the well-being of everyone.
Works cited: Lackey, Mercedes. Storm Rising. New York: Daw Book, Inc., 1996.