Stella Matutina
books and stories and musings, oh my!
January 17th, 2009 

Everyone likes a freebie, and lots of publishers are jumping on the free e-book bandwagon these days. I'm sure the fantasy fans among you are aware of's free e-books and stories, and you're bound to have seen HarperCollins's on-site promotions. Now Penguin is getting in on the action. I heard about their latest freebie over at Presenting Lenore, and it's a good one: Penguin has THE RUINS OF GORLAN, the first book in John Flanagan's wonderful RANGER'S APPRENTICE series, available for free through to February 15th.

I first heard of this Australian series about a year ago. Everyone on LibraryThing was over the moon about it. I borrowed the first couple of books from the library, and it didn't take me too long to succumb. This is a fantastic children's series, my dears, packed full of great characters who change and grow as they move forward. It's got tons of appeal for both kids and adults. And have I mentioned that I'm oh-so jealous of the Australians among you, who already have access to all eight published books? The series has only recently come to North America and the UK, so we're on a bit of a delay compared to you folks.

But anyways, I encourage you to give the first book a go. You can read it via the official (North American) series website. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

And if you want to check out my reviews for the first three books in the series, you can find them on LibraryThing. They're here, here and here.
Ethereal Fantasy
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: book one of the Collegium Chronicles. It's also the twenty-seventh Valdemar book, going by publication order, and is currently the seventh book in chronological order. Lackey recommends that the books be read in publication order.
Publisher: Daw Books, a division of Penguin
Publication Date: October 2008
Pages: 340
Price: $28.50 CAD, $25.95 USD, £16.99 GBP
Status: library
TBR Status: neutral. I added it after January 1st.

LibraryThing Info

Amazon Info

Mercedes Lackey is one of my guilty pleasure authors, and I’m particularly attached to her Valdemar series. She recently took a break from the world to work on other projects, (including her popular 500 KINGDOMS fantasy romance series), and I was thrilled when I heard that she’d returned to Valdemar for another trilogy. Unfortunately, the first volume of said trilogy isn’t nearly as good as what’s come before.

FOUNDATION is set around a hundred years after Vanyel’s time. The Heralds have recently experienced an influx of Chosen, and the ratio of trainees to full Heralds is dangerously high. With their old system of mentorship in tatters, they found a Collegium to train all these newbies.

Mags is one such newbie. He’s your typical Lackey hero; that is to say, he’s a broken and unwanted child who makes good. The book follows his first few months at the new Collegium as he adjusts to trainee life and becomes involved in some political stuff.

In some ways, I did enjoy this. Mags isn’t as instantly loveable as Talia or Vanyel, but he does have his moments. I teared up a couple of times. (I’m not sure I’ve ever read a Mercedes Lackey where I didn’t tear up a couple of times. That woman wreaks havoc with my tear glands). I liked how Lackey used his entrance into Heraldic life to show us a few more things about Valdemar. I especially enjoyed the scenes at Midwinter, where we learn a little more about Valdemaran religion. Mags’s friendships aren’t developed as well as they could be, perhaps, but there are still a few pleasant exchanges that give me hope for the future.

I was willing to give the book a solid three stars, (enjoyable, but nothing spectacular), but the ending is such a disappointment that I’ve no choice but to bump the star rating down. It’s rushed, makes little sense, and doesn’t have the proper oomph. I understand that there's plenty of room for unanswered questions in the first book of any trilogy, but Lackey's approach here struck me as plain old sloppy writing. It wouldn’t have taken Lackey very long to set the ending up properly, but as it is we have a few very vague hints early on that resolve into something that comes out of left field. It’s disappointing.

I’ll still read the next book in the series, but I’m pretty glad I borrow my hardcovers from the library instead of buying them. I’d be upset if I’d paid $28.50 for this.

2.5 stars

Strange Asides:

One of Mags’s friends is named Bear. I myself have a Bear, (who bears – ha ha – little resemblance to this dude), and I’m always rather surprised that reading about other Bears doesn’t throw me off. Reading about other Sims does. (My Bear has a brother named Sim). Hmmm.

Challenge Stuff:

999 Challenge – seems to me like this is a book By Mercedes Lackey. Hey! That’s one of my categories!

Other Reviews:

Adventures in Reading
All Booked Up
The American Book Center Blog
Dear Author
Errant Dreams Reviews
Grasping For the Wind

Please let me know if I missed your review.
Ethereal Fantasy
Well, my last new layout lasted exactly a week. It quickly became clear that the durned thing just didn't work with comments. It was fine as long as there was just one comment all by its lonesome, but I do my best to reply to every comment I receive. As soon as I did so, the text shoved over into the sidebar. It was really tough to read.

So now I'm back to red, albeit of a different sort this time. It's not as easy to read as the blue was, but I find it much prettier. And comments are readable again!

Sigh. Let's see how long this one lasts.
General Fiction
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