Overall, this was probably the best new Valdemar book I’ve read and enjoyed in years. That’s not to say that it has no flaws, but overall, Abi is a great, solid character with some truly excellent and original adventures.
I’m not going to lie: Part of my enjoyment might be because this is the first book in a long time that doesn’t include Mags as a POV character. I like him, but I was a little done. He’s fulfilled his character arc (and then some), and I was ready to move on. Abi filled that void nicely, as a character that embodies a lot of what I love about this series. Lackey introduced us to a new Gift when that source might otherwise be tapped out, and in doing so, let me revisit one of my favorite groups. I’ve had a soft spot for the Artificers since the Mage Storm trilogy, and Abi fit in nicely with them on multiple levels.
In addition, I’m always thrilled to travel outside Valdemar. Lackey wrote herself into a bit of a corner with Vanyel’s final spell, and I love the way she’s returned to incorporating magic into this series.
Alas, the downsides: Abi is really freaking perfect. Like, if she wasn’t so nice, it’d be really annoying. This book also doesn’t really work well as a book. Instead, it reads more as a two-part series linked by the character and slightly less so by the villain. I was especially disappointed that Abi’s Gift doesn’t necessarily play into a major confrontation in the second half, after the buildup for why she was put into that situation in the first place.
But again, it’s the characters who save this book. The secondary characters, especially Jicks, Stev, and Korlack, shine on the page both individually and with their interactions with Abi. If Abi is perfect enough to basically be a Herald, it was a delight to meet a thoroughly pragmatic Herald in Stev (and a certain jab at Vanyel made me laugh out loud while I read). In addition, Lackey gets some bonus points for representation beyond the obvious.
Highly recommended for fans of Valdemar, especially if you’ve fallen out of the series recently. There are some references to the previous book in this trilogy, but they aren’t necessary to read and enjoy this book, so this is good place to pick it up again.