Review: Beyond by Mercedes Lackey

Beyond by Mercedes Lackey

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Book: Beyond

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Pages: 368

Source: NetGalley, DAW Books

Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads Summary:

The long-awaited founding of Valdemar comes to life in this new series from a New York Times bestselling author and beloved fantasist.

Within the Eastern Empire, Duke Kordas Valdemar rules a tiny, bucolic Duchy that focuses mostly on horse breeding. Anticipating the day when the Empire’s exploitative and militant leaders would not be content to leave them alone, Korda’s father set out to gather magicians in the hopes of one day finding a way to escape and protect the people of the Duchy from tyranny.

Kordas has lived his life looking over his shoulder. The signs in the Empire are increasingly dire. Under the direction of the Emperor, mages have begun to harness the power of dark magics, including blood magic, the powers of the Abyssal Planes, and the binding and “milking” of Elemental creatures.

But then one of the Duchy’s mages has a breakthrough. There is a way to place a Gate at a distance so far from the Empire that it is unlikely the Emperor can find or follow them as they evacuate everyone that is willing to leave.

But time is running out, and Kordas has been summoned to the Emperor’s Court.

Can his reputation as a country bumpkin and his acting skills buy him and his people the time they need to flee? Or will the Emperor lose patience, invade to strip Valdemar of everything of worth, and send its conscripted people into the front lines of the Imperial wars?

Preorder or purchase your copy today!

My Review:

I was given a free advanced copy of this book by DAW Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much DAW Books!

Mercedes Lackey is one of my favorite fantasy authors of all time. Her Valdemar books are so easy to read and fun to get lost in. She is one of the authors I turn to when I need to cheer up or de-stress or even get myself out of a reading slump. So, when I heard she was starting a new series not only set in Valdemar but about it’s founding, I was so excited! I already knew I’d be devouring Beyond as soon as it released on June 15th this year, so getting an advanced copy was just icing on the cake.

When I say I devoured Beyond, that’s exactly what I mean. I finished this book in less than 24 hours. My expectations for a beautiful story filled with relatable characters and exciting mystery was certainly fulfilled with this book.

Beyond takes place in “the Empire” – a brutal world filled with magic made up of nobles vying for the Emperor’s vacillating approval and taught from birth to back stab and maneuver to accomplish their goals. The poor commoners are considered less than dirt and barely noticed for more than their usefulness as soldiers in the never-ending war for empirical expansion or as farmers and servants. This is life in the Empire everywhere except in the Duchy of Valdemar.

Duke Kordas Valdemar was raised by his parents and grandparents to treat his people with respect and to work hard for the benefit of his Duchy. He raises prized horses to sell throughout the Empire, and puts on a show as being the country bumpkin for the Emperor’s spies. All of this is so he, his family, and those he trusts with his life can complete a generations long Plan to escape the Empire for good – along with anyone who wants to come.

Naturally, this plan doesn’t go off without a hitch, or two, or three. As Kordas encounters more and more people he feels obligated by honor to rescue, The Plan becomes increasingly complicated and difficult to execute. The mystery of how everyone would escape and stay safe from the Empire for good is really what kept me reading this book with zeal. Seeing Kordas use his brains over brawn to outmaneuver the denizens of the Empire all while making loyal friendships along the way was a great centerpiece of the book.

I also enjoyed seeing LGBTQ+ represented in the cast of characters. In fact one of the many reasons The Plan came about was to help those who would be persecuted and killed for their beliefs or who they loved to be able to escape the Empire for good and live in relative safety. Which, from reading other Valdemar books, we know this is a forerunner of thought that leads to the basis for all society and law in Valdemar: there is no one true way to live.

Characters throughout the book even state their “truths” to each other. It’s evident that at least in the Duchy of Valdemar people seek to discover and live their true lives. They seek to stop hiding who they are and live their lives free of ostracism and violence simply for what they believe and who they love. These situations were obviously the author’s commentary on the world today and how we should seek acceptance and equity for all.

All of that being said. There were a few things about the book that bothered me and may bother other readers as well. First, most of the opening chapter of the book is a description, in sometimes graphic detail, about a horse giving birth. This threw me off a bit, but later in the book I realized it was a device to quickly establish what type of person Kordas is to the reader. In that respect the scene accomplished it’s goal, but just be aware the scene is there.

Finally, there were a couple of points in the book where a transition in the story was a bit abrupt. Once, when Kordas was called to the Capital, and again when the big conflict in the story was resolved. Both situations seemed to come out of nowhere. Kordas traveling to the Capital happened at the beginning of a chapter, and the previous chapter never mentioned him so much as getting a messenger requesting his presence. So, these two points in the story disrupted my immersion a bit, but otherwise, I really enjoyed this book.

If you’re like me and have been itching to read more about Valdemar, then go out and preorder this book! My only regret is that now I must wait at least a year for the next one!

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Have you read any of the Valdemar books? Who is your favorite fantasy author? Let me know in the comments!

Preorder or purchase Beyond by Mercedes Lackey, due for release on June 15, 2021!

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