Majestic, sweeping and heroic, this omnibus involving two women’s determination to rise above their difficulties and found a school (a very unusual goal in such novels) is more than an epic saga. It manages to interject humor, wit, tenderness and genuine warmth between its very different main characters.
There’s a lot of backstory here, prequels that should probably be read in order to gain a sharper view of certain subjects referred to in its pages. But this trio of novels is so skillfully crafted that you don’t need to read the preceding novels in order to understand what’s going on with these extraordinary female characters.
The unity between these Kethry and Tarma is absolutely amazing; the affection shines through in every interaction, even when they’re arguing with each other. Make no mistake, when they play at being lovers—generally because of subterfuge—there isn’t a hint of sexual desire. No Xena-and-Gabrielle UST here; Ms. Lackey makes it plain that their bond stems from another emotional source, one just as fulfilling as amorous love. It affects them and everyone around them in subtle and not-so-subtle ways and is captivating to read, whether they’re fighting side by side or merely engaging in conversation with others.
As they wield magic and sword for pay and for honor, Kethry and Tarma wend their way across their world, making enemies and allies alike. If you’re never read Mercedes Lackey before, this taut, thrilling novel from the 80s is a magnificent start, a terrific introduction to the work of one of the grande dames of fantasy writers.
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