Editor: Mercedes Lackey
The back jacket blurb:
The heroes of Valdemar
...are the Heralds, an ancient order trained to be emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counselors, and even warriors. But they are more than just protectors of the kingdom. Chosen from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages, these unusual individuals are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and others who are uniquely suited to protecting their realm. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horselike Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. With their Companions, the Heralds of Valdemar ride patrol throughout the kingdom protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land amd monarch.
Now,sixteen authors join Mercedes Lackey adding their own adventurous touch to the heroes of this well-loved fantasy realm.
Join Tanya Huff, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Fiona Patton, Judith Tarr, Rosemary Edgehill and others in sixteen original stories, including an all-new novella from Mercedes Lackey, set in a land where: A woman shunned by her village and betrayed by her brother finds her true calling when she saves the lives of a wounded Herald and his Companion... a devoted young herbalist must choose between her chosen duty to her village and her destiny as a Herald... a man who is about to be happily married is shown the truth of his situation by a Companion he has refused to follow.
There are a lot of familiar names in this anthology - familiar from previous Valdemar anthologies that is, especially Crossroads the last anthology. Quite a few of the stories involve the characters the authors introduced there. In that, this is beginning to remind me of the Catfantastic series of anthologies. Judith Tarr, for example, has written another story involving her dressage-skilled Herald. There are two stories involving Ree and Jem this time.
The stories also range from the founding of Valdemar on to after the Mage Storms, and also cover the other countries of Velgarth, and even our own Earth.
Mercedes Lackey's story here is one of my favorites from the book, not like last time. This time it worked within her world, rather than forcing it to fit another story. The story Softly Falling Snow was another that fit really well.
As with any anthology though, I'll admit there are stories I liked more than others. As much as I like Judith Tarr's other writing, such as her novel King and Goddess, which I reviewed here recently, the notion of magic she's brought to Valdemar just doesn't quite work for me. It's a good story nonetheless. Also, the story set in our world. Valdemar and the Companions are something completely separate in my mind from our world and it's problems, although I could see what the author was trying for.
The introductions to the individual authors have to be one of my favorite parts of an anthology like this. They're just downright funny much of the time. I think Mercedes Lackey and the others here are following in the footsteps of Marion Zimmer Bradley with the Sword and Sorceress series.
If you like the Valdemar books (and know them fairly well), this is a book for you. It is, though designed for that specific audience, and if you haven't read any of the books, I'd suggest starting with Arrows of the Queen and it's sequels.