And so the Collegium Chronicles come to an end in Bastion. In the tradition of bringing things full circle (and establishing traditions that will carry on for centuries), Mags goes out on Circuit with a mentor for the last part of his training as a Herald. In fact, this is not the usual Circuit to those familiar with the series. Rather than traveling through the region, stopping for a few days in each village to do their job, Mags and Herald Jakyr are basing themselves in a cave system known as the Bastion and making trips out to each village, one at a time.
Considering that the people of the region are rather insular and not always cooperative, it makes sense. What’s even more interesting is that the Bastion is where Mags and his parents were kept prisoner by bandits all those years ago, allowing Mags a chance come to terms with the physical place and perhaps to find anything that might still be lying around.
With this being the final book of the set, it’s no surprise that this is the climax not only of Mags’ training to become a Herald but also the assassins who’ve been trying to kidnap him and take him home to his blood kin. Oh and there’s some romantic subplots that also get resolved, but since those are the most predictable parts of the book, we can safely gloss over them.
I think my only real complaint about the Collegium Chronicles as a set is that I never get a good sense of how much time has passed between books. They feel as if mere months fill the space between, but I am pretty sure that it’s more like several years. As an experienced reader, I know that time in the Collegia tends to be 4-6 years, depending on the Trainee and their prior experience (and, you know, if they get kidnapped or not because that can seriously cut into your studies). Going based on feel, I think Mags would’ve only spent two years in the Collegium, but that can’t possibly be right. Now, if it was only two, he would’ve been something like eighteen or nineteen years old, based on fourteen years at the mine and being two or three when he was found in the bandit camp. So his age is right, but experientially I feel he needed another year or two at the Collegium being, well, human. The mine owner treated him and the other slaves like animals, so Mags was the next thing to feral when he was Chosen. But overall this is a fairly minor complaint, more me trying to get everything straight in my mind than anything that actually affects my enjoyment of the books.
Closer to Home, the first book of Herald Spy, picks up at the end of Mags’ Circuit and sees our protagonist and his beloved return as full adults and be granted real responsibilities. Then, the worst happens, but thanks to CPR it’s not actually the tragedy we think. Instead, the plot takes a turn for Romeo and Juliet. Seriously, we’ve got two feuding families and the altercations and discussions get worse as the winter and all its highborn parties goes on. Admittedly, Lackey screws with our expectations of Shakespeare just as she does with fairy tales, so things aren’t quite as bad as they seem.
However, this is the sixth book starring Mags and, frankly, as I recall what happens in the next volume, I’m starting to hit the wall of believability. Is it really so likely for so many things to happen to this small group of people? Do I think that Lackey is hanging on to these characters well past the time when she should have moved to a new protagonist? It’s hard to say, and sad to think about, but only time will tell.