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.