Acceptably Ongoing

Today I finished Tempest, the newest Valdemar anthology.  It’s a…mixed bag, to say the least.  There are twenty-two stories crammed into this book, and they run the gamut, though at least there’s no Scooby-Doo ripoff this time.  (That was awful.)

I spent the first third or so of the book thinking that maybe, in the future, I should pick a story, read up on the previous installments in the earlier anthologies, and then read this newest entry.  There are a lot of returning authors and characters.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I felt it more with Tempest than I have in the past.  I suppose it’s because this time I had the impression that I was expected to recognize the characters and remember what I’d previously read.  In the past, I’d be reading and think “huh, this name sounds familiar, and the character reminds me of something in a previous anthology.”  Then I’d dig through the books until I discovered that yes, this was indeed a further story with the previously established character.  In this case, I was pleased to have realized the connection.

Sometimes the linked stories were more obvious.  I’ve mentioned the stories by Kate Paulk and Sarah Hoyt, featuring Jem and Ree.  When one of your main characters is a Changechild and this is the only set of stories set in the Eastern Empire, they tend to be more memorable than most.  As such, when I noticed these authors in subsequent books, I was always happy to read another installment in their tale, up through its logical conclusion.  I also appreciate that I haven’t seen any further stories since that logical conclusion.  Frankly, that’s one of the ways to ruin a good ending: making unnecessary sequels and additions.

I suppose that’s why I wasn’t too thrilled by the story “Transmutation,” back in Crossroads.  My goodness, that was published back in 2005, over a decade ago!  I felt that the story of Darian and his friends had reached a logical conclusion in Owlknight, and well they certainly lived on, they had grown into who they were meant to be and no longer needed to be main characters.  And as neat as gryphons are, I never found Kelvren to be that interesting a person.  Of course, as I was looking up this particular short story, I have to wonder if another reason why I was less than thrilled is because Larry Dixon wrote this on his own, without his wife’s help.  (In case you didn’t know, Larry Dixon and Mercedes Lackey are married.)

Anyway, the final tale in Tempest is “Ripples and Cracks,” the direct sequel to “Transmutation” and written by both Dixon and Lackey.  It is probably the most technical piece of writing I have ever found in this series, outside of The Valdemar Companion.  The most technical that is actually part of a story then.  Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely fascinating to learn something about gryphonic anatomy, but the fact that I didn’t have much investment in the story to start didn’t help.  Nor the whole part where Kelvren expects to find a hero’s welcome when he returns home and instead is treated like a living bomb.  There is a brief comparison of Tayledras and Valdemaran mindsets, wherein Valdemaran is your typical person who thinks anything outside their experience must be awful and bad (sound familiar to anyone in this country?) and the Tayledras are much more accepting and idealized.

No, I don’t think that the Tayledras are immune to the feelings the Valdemarans are experiencing.  I will grant that they are far less likely to feel that way about magic simply because it is magic.  It’s got to do more than simply exist to make the Tayledras nervous.

“Ripples and Cracks” also ended on an obvious cliffhanger, so there will definitely be at least one story in this group at some point in the future.  Maybe less than ten years from now, but who knows.  I am cautiously intrigued by this proposed continuation, not the least of which because Firesong will be returning as a key character.  I don’t always like Firesong as a person (especially in the early Mage Storms books when he’s being a selfish ass), but he’s certainly not boring to read about.

There weren’t too many standouts in this book as I recall.  There were, as I said, a lot of tales with recurring characters.  But there were also several new ones.  The three I remember enjoying the most are “Medley” by Jessica Schlenker & Michael Z. Williamson, “In Name Only” by Kristin Schwengel, and “Girl Without the Gifts” by Janny Wurts.  “Medley” does follow “A Fire in the Grass” from Crucible, but still stands on its own without the previous tale.  It shows Heralds as being humans…as one man unexpectedly meets the results of a one night stand.

“In Name Only” takes us to a region that is not usually explored in these anthologies, that of the Haighlei Empire, through the lens of their White Gryphon allies.  I enjoyed that it was different in that respect, as well as well-written.  I’d say “Girl Without Gifts” may be the best of the lot for its blind protagonist who is not suicidal.  (Sorry Tanya Huff, but I do not get your mine/cave fetish.)

I don’t know if it was coincidental or intended, but I noted at least three stories here seemed to involve Highjorune and the long-incorporated lands of Lineas and Baires.  These were only featured in the main series in Magic’s Promise, the second entry in The Last Herald-Mage trilogy.  Admittedly, they were fairly central to the plot, but never really came up again in the novels.  There were also a lot of stories in and relating to Karse this time, which is not unusual but still noteworthy.

What can I say?  Tempest is another Valdemar anthology and it didn’t have anything in it that I despised.  I’ll have to think on what to start tomorrow, as I have five new books from this weekend.  Plus the comic books I bought earlier and the rest of the Pile.  So many choices!


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