Author: Mercedes Lackey
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2010
Magpie is a thirteen-year-old orphan chosen by one of the magical Companion horses of Valdemar and taken to the capital city, Haven, to be trained as a Herald. Like all Heralds, Magpie learns that he has a hidden Gift-the Gift of telepathy.
But life at the court is not without obstacles. When Mags is “recognized” by foreign secret operatives whose purpose is unknown, Mags himself comes under suspicion. Who are Magpie’s parents-who is he, really? Can Mags solve the riddle of his parentage and his connection with the mysterious spies-and prove his loyalty-before the king and court banish him as a traitor?
**Warning! This post may contain spoilers for the previous book in the Collegium Chronicles. Read at your own risk!**
Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey is the second book in the Collegium Chronicles set in the magical world of Valdemar. By the time this story takes place, Mags has been at the Collegium for several months, and just after Midwinter the year before, he managed to become a hero by saving his friend Bear from an insane, foreign assassin. Mags doesn’t let this go to his head, though. He still pretty much keeps to himself other than spending time with his friends Lena and Bear. He’s also been working on unraveling the mystery of his parents and where he comes from.
By doing research in the Guard archives, Mags discovers he is of foreign origin himself, and his parents must have come from quite far away indeed. The records indicate they spoke a language no one understood and wore unfamiliar clothing. If they had been from any of the countries bordering Valdemar, then the people with them would have at least recognized the language even if they couldn’t speak it. Mags eagerly shares this information with his friends over lunch, which turns out to be a mistake.
The foreseers have had a vision that involves a foreigner and danger to the King of Valdemar. Now, Mags has just admitted he is of foreign origin. Rumors begin to swirl around and about Mags. After all, the assassin last winter recognized him. How could that be? If Mags isn’t the foreigner in question, maybe it’s someone from his past that causes trouble in Valdemar. Mags has finally gotten used to living among people and having friends. He’s even joined the team of the new, popular sport Kirball. What will he do if they all turn against him?
One of the overarching themes of this book was the damaging power of rumors. Mags can’t help where he comes from any more than anyone can. No one has control over when and where they are born, and Mags definitely would have controlled it if he could. His anger at everyone believing something as insubstantial as a foresight vision was completely understandable. Especially after he finds out how little that vision actually revealed.
He is a Heraldric Trainee, and he’s been learning that being a part of the Herald’s Circle should mean something. He should be trusted based on the fact that the Companions trust him. It’s important to remember that at this point in the story, Mags has only been away from the mine for maybe six months. He’s had little more to go on as far as trusting people is concerned than what Dallen has been able to tell him. It’s not surprising that he would feel betrayed and hurt by that small amount of trust he’s built up in people in Haven being broken.
Mags’s reaction when even Bear and Lena appear to have turned away from him is completely understandable. However, it also shows how important it is to not let emotions get away from you. Bear and Lena needed to hear what Mags had to say to them, but it should have been conveyed in a calmer manner. The stress Mags endured over weeks of false accusation and rumor, though, had me sympathizing with him. I was also upset that neither Bear nor Lena ever apologized to him for their behavior.
In the end, Mags ends up being instrumental in preventing the disaster the foreseers saw in their visions. He turns out to be one of the most worthy Heraldric Trainees of being Chosen. Even the King himself is in his debt. He pays for it with some injuries, but he saves the day once again. That’s not to say Mags was able to just snap out of his depression. He thought he had lost everything, but Dallen was able to help snap him out of it. That just goes to show how important true friendship and a support system can be for people to have.
This is not the first time I’ve read Intrigues, and it’s unlikely to be the last. I enjoy then entire Mags saga from the Collegium Chronicles to the Herald Spy trilogy to the trilogy about his children. I always feel like this book is a turning point for Mags in his journey. He learns to trust in himself, and he establishes that he is a trustworthy and brave member of the Heraldric Circle. They only warning I will give about this book is that there are times when Mags gives voice to suicidal ideations, so keep that in mind before reading if it could be triggering for you.
I gave Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey four out of five stars. It’s a cautionary tale of what can happen when rumors are allowed to run wild. Rumors can be damaging to the point of causing someone to take their life, and they can make people feel desperate. The support of true friends can help, but having a strong sense of self-confidence is ultimately one of the few remedies. Mags had to learn this the hard way throughout the story. The only reason I didn’t rate this five stars is because some sections including the Kirball games became a bit tiresome to read. Other than that, I think it’s an excellent entry in the series.
Have you read any of the Valdemar books? What about the Collegium Chronicles? Let me know in the comments!