Pros: Fantastic Valdemar stories
Cons: Veeery sappy!
Rating: 5 out of 5
If you aren’t familiar with Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, then Tanya Huff’s anthology of short stories set in Valdemar, The Demon’s Den and Other Tales of Valdemar, would probably still work for you. You still get the bare bones of the concept, with Heralds being chosen by intelligent horse-looking Companions and going out into the world to do good. That said, it’s always good to have the background. These seven stories, collected from a variety of Valdemar anthologies, all feature the exploits of Jors and his Companion Gervis. Because they’re Valdemar stories, they’re about hope, and optimism, and things that bring tears to your eyes. If that isn’t your bag, skip this one–but it’s done very well. I find I have to be in the right mood for Valdemar, but I love it when I am.
In the first story, Jors gets trapped in a rockfall in a mine and has to be rescued by a bitter blind woman with no legs who happens to be a brilliant engineer. In another tale, he meets a young man who believes he’s a Herald and does his best to act as one even though he has no Companion, and the various Heralds’ Companions insist on going along with it. In story number three, he’s tapped to mentor young Herald Alyise on a circuit, and finds his will tested by the attraction between them.
In another tale, probably the first one with much action on Jors’s part in it, he has to track down a group of raiders and rescue a young woman, with his only help being that of an elderly Herald with his aging Companion. In a rather plain yet touching story, Jors finds a toddler whose father is dying and has to deliver him to his nearest relative, without having any experience with children. Then Jors encounters bandits again, including one named Morgaine who has a great impact on him. Finally he’s pressed into visiting his family, where he has to help rescue a missing man, sort out his cousin’s desire to be some sort of musician, and face his grandmother!
Probably my only negative at all was the need for something more in the story of the bandit Morgaine to explain Jors’s super-strong reaction to her. My guess is this might be something that would have made more sense to me if I had more experience with Valdemar (I’ve read a couple of books, but not many, and it’s been a while). I would have liked for it to stand better alone, however, if that’s the case.
Jors is a fun character. He enjoys the ladies (in a non-repulsive sense), he’s a rather earnest young man, and his Companion has an exceptionally dry sense of humor. The stories are very sappy, but as long as you go in expecting and wanting that, it’s just fine. I found tears in my eyes after several of the tales.
The most important thing is that this is a crossover between one of my favorite authors (Tanya Huff) and an excellent fantasy world (Valdemar), so how could you possibly go wrong?