Magic's Promise / Mercedes Lackey
New York : DAW Books, 1990
The Last Herald-Mage, bk. 2
The wild magic is taking its toll on the land. Many Heralds and Herald-Mages have died fighting to preserve the peace. Even Vanyel, the most powerful of the Herald-Mages is almost at the end of his strangth, in need of a respite from the dual threats of war and dark magic.
I'm going to keep this brief because I don't have much to say. I read this last week during the read-a-thon, and it ended up being a good choice for that because I found it engrossing. It's a strong narrative and a compelling story, and if you've read Magic's Pawn, the first novel in the trilogy, I'm going to suggest you try to ignore how angsty and whiny it is and try this one out because it's far better.
Vanyel, our protagonist, still has some unresolved feelings about the events of the first book, which occured 10 years before the second, but he doesn't obsess on them so much as last time. The first significant portion of this novel (more than half) is very domestic. Vanyel returns to his childhood home (castle) and deals with family issues, and it is these things that make the book strong. Lackey has a knack for character interaction and day-to-day living stuff. Reading it, I almost forgot I was supposed to be expecting some sort of huge tale of might and magic.
She does get there, though, but even this aspect of the novel has to do with the destruction of a family, a lost boy, mentorship, and identity. It's a creative, fantasy-style conflict that also ties into the themes of the first half, making Magic's Promise a tight, well-crafted work. If you've read the first and are iffy, give this one a shot. If you haven't read the first, maybe skip and and give this a shot anyway.