What was it with the nineties and extraneous “z’s”? Regardless, that made it super easy to date this book without looking at the cover or reading it. This is Bedlam Boyz by Ellen Guon, a prequel to the first Eric Banyon books. It takes place about six months before the climax of Knight of Ghosts and Shadows, and is the story of how Kayla Smith, a genuine teenage Healer, became the ward of Elizabet Winters.
I’d have to reread Eric’s adventures to know for certain, but I am relatively sure that the events of this book have been referred to once or twice in later publications. Which makes sense, this is Kayla’s backstory and it greatly influenced the person she is by the end of Music to My Sorrow. It takes place in LA, in the eighties, as Kayla gets a crash course in the world being a fucked-up place.
Until she suddenly found herself able to heal, Kayla had no idea magic was real, and even then, she didn’t understand how very real it could be and how much it would change her life. Then she gets caught up in a gang war, because everyone likes to have a healer on their side. And let’s not forget that this is part of Mercedes Lackey’s “mall elves” world, so yeah, don’t discount the pointy-eared people.
There’s not much more I can say about the story without spoiling things. Because this is a prequel, anyone familiar with the series has to know how things will end as well as who the people mentioned offscreen are and what part they will play. It’s a nice, easy read that does deal with some heavier subjects. In fact, there’s a note in the back about the dangers of running away and being homeless, along with a shelter’s name and phone number. This is similar to the notes at the end of the SERRAted Edge books, which inspired me to check and see when those were written. The earliest of the first four was from 1992 and the latest of those 1994. I don’t know if the original printings contained notes (though I guess they would) but my omnibi from 1999 and 2000 do.
I did like the nod to Lackey herself in the book. At one point Kayla is reading a book about a young girl who runs away from home with a magical white horse. Which would most likely be Arrows of the Queen, the first Valdemar book published. Like I said, it’s a nice nod considering that Bedlam Boyz wouldn’t exist without Lackey coauthoring Knight of Ghosts & Shadows and Summoned to Tourney.
There’s not much else to say about this book. I’d say I should pick up more by Ellen Guon, except a quick check says that I now own every book she’s authored or coauthored. There are some short fiction pieces as well, so if I happen upon any anthologies containing them, she’ll be one of the recognizable authors who encourages me to pick it up.
Now I’d best get a bit serious about reorganizing some books so that I can fit Bedlam Boyz in my Lackey section, with the rest of its series.