Adventures in Reading

Fiction: Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Sometimes I like to pretend I am a fan of fantasy, but I’m really not or at least I’m an exceptionally selective fan of what I do and do not like within the genre. Over the last year I stumbled across Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms Series and they were excellent reads. It’s a perfect series to sit down with a cup of coffee, curl up with a blanket, and allow yourself some thoughtful and whimsical escape from the stresses of daily life. When I found an advanced reader’s copy of Lackey’s newest book Foundation due out in October I lept at the chance to read more by this author.

I’m writing this review after reading Lawrence Watt-Evan’s humorous commentary of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and in The Turtle Moves! he refers to a type of book within the fantasy genre referred to as “magic pony,” which the moment I read had me cracking up. In his description “magic pony” fantasy is more or less an orphan from a bedraggled past (most often a girl and frequently redheaded) that teams up with a magical creature. Foundation, the first in the Collegium Chronicles, is such a book.

Except this girl is really a boy names Mags. Foundation opens up with this orphan working as a slave in a jewel mine owned by a tyrannical paternal figure. With an off and on generically uneducated dialect streaming through the text, the reader acquaints themselves with Mags and his condition. Until he is rescued by a group of heralds and what will be Mags’ Companion Dallen (a white horse that instantly builds a mind link with Mags). Mags discovers that he will be a Heraldic trainee and the story continues reminiscent of other fantasy books with poor orphaned children having fortunate luck and while making the best of things having to deal with dark forces.

In my experience with Lackey (now four books in) I have found a curious predictability in plot line or that it is always the same. Three-fourths of the novel will be dedicated to character building and establishing enough intrigue that a climax is available to conclude the novel on. This blackout-like conclusion is followed by an epilogue that ensures a harmonious conclusion. This doesn’t make Foundation a bad book, not at all, but the simplicity of stories and crystal clear morality encourages me to place Foundation as a children’s book.

I also found it interesting that Foundation is now joining the ranks of other children’s books that develop a mystique of horror and fright around the ever frightening letter V: Harry Potter has Voldemort, the Twilight series has Volturi, Victoria, and Vampires, while Foundation introduces Vrondi the transparent floating eyes that keep a watch over the kingdom.



Floating eyes? Sounds like Sauron!

Comment by Lightheaded

[…] recall much of an opinion from them either. Reading it so close to the heels of Mercedes Lackey’s Foundation I found some parallels. It’s a text that runs smoothly and is easily read. There are allegorical […]

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Hmm… read some more of the Valdemar series (starts with V) and you’ll find thet the Vrondi and Valdemar have been around for far longer than Voldemort. Also, I wouldn’t catalog Mercedes Lackey’s books as Children’s Books. They are far too provocative, at least for my children.

Comment by Charmaine

Charmain: My apologies, I did not mean to imply any type of time period. I just thought it was interesting that so much “horror” is attached to the letter V. (I feel a paper topic brewing!) As far as Lackey and children’s books, I no where referred to Lackey being a children’s author; however, Foundation is very much a children’s story with nothing “provocative” within. I would give it no thought to pass along this copy to an interested tween/adolescent.

Comment by bookchronicle

Vrondi are not villians as in bad guys They do be come guardians of a sort. if you read the Magic’s Promise, Magic’s Pawn and Magic’s Price. you will see what I mean. I do think some of the subject concepts might not be best for children.

Comment by Sheila

In Foundation – the book I read and what this post is based on – the Vrondi are represented as “bad guys.” Once again, Foundation – the book I read and what this post is based on – is 100% a-okay for children.

Comment by bookchronicle

Even in Foundation, the vrondi aren’t bad guys… except to the bad guys.

Comment by Kes

Kes: Hence still making them “bad guys”…

Comment by bookchronicle

I just finished reading foundations. I’ve read almost all of Mercedes’s books and would say they were more appropriate for teenagers and adults. There is enough dark content in most of them that I wouldn’t loan them to my younger cousins.

She does have a high moral tone to this book. It seemed to fit the plot line.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Comment by Toni

I know this is an old review now, but I just wanted to comment: Lackey’s Valdemar books with their horsey “Companions” were the *inspiration* for people naming the sub-genre “magic *pony,*” so it’s not surprising you would find so many parallels! Part of the genre is that the first book of each trilogy follows the plot you noticed; since it usually features a child protagonist, it is *sometimes* suitable for children to read. However, the second two books in each trilogy take a dark turn and talk about more adult subjects because she usually skips right forward to adulthood in the second book. Plots feature things like the murder of main characters, torture, political intrigue, and the gritty details of war. This trilogy might be different due to it being called the Collegium Chronicles Trilogy — if it’s about the school, maybe she’ll keep him a child for the second book and split from her typical pattern. Or maybe she’ll just make him a teacher in it. In short, you should think of the book you read as only book one of a larger three-part book and part of a very large, multi-trilogy series.

I might add that Foundation is Mercedes Lackey’s *worst* book by far. I’ve read them all, so I feel I can judge them, and even I — such a huge fan I’ve bought some of her books more than once — can say that this book sucked in comparison to what she’s capable of. You should really read something good, like the Last Herald Mage Trilogy (Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, Magic’s Price). All I can say about Foundation is that the rest of the trilogy had better make up for this disappointment.

Comment by K. Devin

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