“She’ll keep you up long past your bedtime,” Stephen King once said about Mercedes Lackey, and it’s appeared on numerous of her books since.  It’s true enough, considering that I stayed up a bit late last night to finish Beyond World’s End, and even later to start this post.  But some things are worth missing a bit of sleep for.

Beyond World’s End is the first Eric Banyon book after he spent some time living Underhill with the elves, learning how to really use his power as a Bard.  This book, coauthored with Rosemary Edghill, was published in 2000, and takes place right around the turn of the century.  CDs are in, computers are becoming important, but cell phones are not vital to everyday life yet.  They do exist, and they’re well, not nearly as small as they would be within a few short years.  If you wanted to do more than phone calls, you’d have a Blackberry.

This is the first in a set of books that sees Eric as an adult, laying his ghosts to rest and making a place for himself in the world.  These books also are the focal point where most of Lackey’s urban fantasy meets each other.  There’s a number of references and even a cameo or two hidden throughout as different groups meet.  Things never quite reach fanfiction levels of main characters getting to know each other in depth, or, thank goodness, shipping.  Still, it’s quite entertaining.

I followed that up with Spirits White as Lightning, the second of the once-modern-day Eric Banyon books.  This one came out in 2002, so it’s already a bit dated.  Witness that our main character does not yet have a cell phone.  This book concludes the drama begun in Beyond World’s End and begins to set up characters for the following books.

What I really enjoy about these books is that they build on the foundations of the earlier series (plural) and expand the world and the way we see it with each new volume.  It’s always fun to see how Lackey and her coathors can unfold new and more interesting situations, events, and characters.  These later Eric Banyon books are more intertwined than most of the rest of the novels set in this world, and truly function as a series in and of themselves.

It’s much harder to read only one of this set of books in particular, given how closely they all tie together.  The 80s/90s books do tie in, but there’s not nearly as much foreshadowing and stage-setting.  An entire small section of Spirits White as Lightning is devoted to establishing the character Ace, who won’t become a main character until the next book, Mad Maudlin.

I also appreciate the fact that, with this world of books in particular, the more I read and listen and learn, the more references I catch.  When one character asks another “How are you at dealing with dragons?” I cannot help but think OH MY GOD SOMEONE HAS READ PATRICIA C. WREDE!  Dealing with Dragons is the first book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, a series from the 80s that I adored as a kid.  I remember in sixth grade, I think, there was some kind of assignment that involved illustrating a fictional character, and I chose Kazul from Wrede’s series.  I still have pencil underlines in that book where I had marked physical descriptions for later use.  It’s probably best not to get me started about how many references suddenly made a lot more sense after someone dumped a large pile of They Might Be Giants mp3s on me in college.

I don’t read a lot of books that cater to fans in subtle ways, mostly because so many of them are set elsewhere.  Those that are set in our world tend to either be a lot more obvious about name-checking or ignore it entirely and focus on the story (or they choose to reference things I am unfamiliar with).  So the slight nods here and there make me super happy.

Also elves are weird.  If they weren’t, Kory and the microwave popcorn wouldn’t keep coming up.

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