What should have been a comforting visit to my favorite land was tempered by the fact that the majority of the stories in this collection were continuations of stories in previous anthologies. I have a decent memory for things I’ve read ages ago, but even with that, some of these tales were hard to dive back into. A few stood on their own better than others. Because of that, this might not be the book I recommend a reader pick up first out of all the Valdemar anthologies. However, two stories still stood out as greatly enjoyable.
It’s probably cliche to list the story by Mercedes Lackey herself in this collection as my favorite, but that’s how it ended up. “Woman’s Need Calls Me” was a fun look back to an earlier time period of the land of Velgarth, shortly after the Mage Wars, and features one of the most delightful characters in this entire series: the sword Need! This story operates on multiple levels: as a solid story on its own and to fill in character/world information relevant to long-time fans of the series.
Story I’d Like to See Expanded
In some cases, the intersection between good and bad is a matter of context. And if you don’t have all the context, it can be easy to feel like you’re on the side of angels. Such is the case in the story “Weight of a Hundred Eyes” by Dylan Birtolo, which features an incident set sometime in the time of Valdemar when magic was excluded from the land. But that doesn’t mean mages stopped being born, so what happens to them? This story was a fascinating look at what life is like in Valdemar from that perspective, and it leaves open interesting threads of what might happen next. Selfishly, I’d prefer it to be a full novel rather than a follow-up story in the next collection.