Release Date: October 4, 2016
Rating (Out of 5):
Synopsis: Herald Mags, the King of Valdemar’s Herald-Spy, has been developing a clandestine network of young informants who operate not only on the streets of the capital city of Haven, but also in the Great Halls and kitchens of the wealthy and highborn. In his own established alternate personas, Mags observes the Court and the alleys alike, quietly gathering information to keep Haven and the Kingdom safe.
His wife Amily, is growing into her position as the King’s Own Herald, though she is irritated to encounter many who still consider her father, Herald Nikolas, to be the real King’s Own. Nonetheless, she finds it increasingly useful to be underestimated, for there are dark things stirring in the shadows of Haven andup on the Hill. Someone has discovered many secrets of the women of the Court and the Collegia—and is using those secrets to terrorize and bully them. Someone is targeting the religious houses of women, too, leaving behind destruction and obscene ravings.
Mags and Amily take steps to minimize the damage while using both magic and wits to find the evildoer. But just as they appear to be on the verge of success, the letter-writer tires of terror and is now out for blood. Mags and Amily will have to track down someone who leaves few clues behind and thwart whatever plans have been set in motion, and quickly—before terror turns to murder.
Closer to the Chest follows Herald Mags and his wife Herald Amily as they grow into their roles within the King's Court. The roles of not only Heralds, but Herald-Spy and King's Own. They are thrown out of their depth with a new mystery: someone writing Poison Pen letters to women at Court. Things get even more serious when it seems that the same mysterious writer is destroying religious houses devoted to women. Will they catch the mysterious villain before things escalate to murder?
People who have read Lackey's Collegium Chronicles in the Valdemar series (Foundation, Intrigues, Changes, Redoubt, and Bastion) will already be familiar with almost all of the characters. That series followed Mags and his friends as they came to the Collegia for school and, in Harry Potter-like fashion, had adventures that shaped them into the adults we see in The Herald Spy series. That said, there are definitely references to events that a reader starting off with Closer to the Chest will not get. I don't think it would affect enjoyment of the story, although probably going back and reading the Collegium Chronicles series (as well as the first two Herald Spy books) would enhance Closer to the Chest.
The Valdemar series continues to have everything a fantasy reader would want to see: magic and mystery; royalty, nobility, and peasants working together (or not!); and, of course, the magical, horse-like Companions. Closer to the Chest is a bit slower paced than Lackey's usual books and has a more relaxed style of writing than her earlier works. I find I still prefer her earlier books to these later ones with the different writing style, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying them. Chest contained more repetition than I think was necessary- there are only so many times I need to be told that this was the hottest heat wave in memory for instance.
However, Closer to the Chest was a fun, light read. I enjoyed following characters I already knew and watching them grow into their new roles as adults and their new responsibilities, and when the mysterious Poison Pen letters begin to escalate to worse and worse things the mystery picked up and got interesting. Fans of Mercedes Lackey will enjoy returning to the world of Haven. Fantasy lovers and Harry Potter fans looking for their next series will enjoy a good introduction to Mercedes Lackey- and hopefully get hooked into reading the rest of the Valdemar saga!
I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.