From what I can remember of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series, Brightly Burning is the most biographical. As such, it centers around Lavan Chitward, a boy who earned his heraldic whites and the name Firestorm. It is one of the series’ four standalone books, including the novella in the Valdemar Companion.
So to speak, Heralds are the white knights of yore. They are the monarch’s right hand, trusted folk who act as peace keepers, judges, diplomats, and guardians of Valdemar. They also tend to be gifted, having abilities such as telepathy, healing, and empathy, to name a few. But in order to become a Herald, one must be chosen by a Companion, the proverbial white steed whose looks are deceiving.
Several ideas and questions are explored in Brightly Burning. Blood kin vs chosen family. At times, boundaries are meaningless when it comes to love. When is it right, if ever, to take revenge? Power can be used for good or bad, but who has control, the person or the power itself? Leaders, who become such for different reasons, come in different sizes and shapes. How can one overcome fear and adversity?
Although there are several reoccurring themes through the Valdemar series, Lackey approaches them from different aspects. This helps to keep them from getting stale. In the Mage Wars trilogy, a war started out of greed and its effects during and after are visited. In Brightly Burning, war is approached from a religious angle and the draft is brought to question. Because of the characters and continuous storyline, good and bad are constants. Still, these concepts are viewed differently through characters and plots.
And although I am one among numerous readers who want Lackey to write more for the series, I can understand why she hasn’t. If anything, I think this shows her integrity as a writer:
Hey, everybody needs a vacation, even from the best job. So, until I come up with a story set in Velgarth that is as compelling as the ones you’ve enjoyed in the past, I’m taking a break. The last thing I want is for my own favorite series to start limping along and go out with a whimper.
When I’ve finished my second lap around Valdemar I’ll just have to read something else by one of my favorite writers. Having read about 40 of her works (short stories included), “Misty” is also the one whom I’ve read the most of. Need I say that this book or the series are recommended?
Quotes from Brightly Burning:
- “Without your actions, I would not be where I am and what I am at this moment.”
- “It needs ashes, mountain winds, and winter storms to thrive…It can send its roots deep into the rock, and rise out of the ashes tall and strong. It needs adversity to thrive.”