Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) This stand-alone novel in the Valdemar series continues the story of prickly weapons-master Alberich. Once a heroic Captain in the army of Karse, a kingdom at war with Valdemar, Alberich becomes one of Valdemar’s Heralds. Despite prejudice against him, he becomes the personal protector of young Queen Selenay. But can he protect her from the dangers of her own heart?
Thoughts: Continuing the story started in Exile’s Honor, the Tedrel Wars are over, and we return to a somewhat subdued Valdemar. The King has been killed and the new Queen Selenay has yet to finish her year of mourning before people start to push potential husbands on her, in the belief that a woman cannot hold the throne alone. And Alberich is slowly working to uncover a plot that threatens Selenay, and perhaps all of Valdemar itself.
Whereas a good half of the previous novel featuring Alberich as a main character was action-oriented, taking place in the middle of a war, the sequel takes things back and lets intrigue and a puzzle carry the story along instead. And while many of Lackey’s Valdemar novels contain bits of romance, Exile’s Valor has it in spades! Between the courtship and marriage of Selenay and Karath, and the growing relationship between Alberich and Myste, it’s hard to get away from the romance and emphasis on relationships. If this sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea, you might find yourself disappointed.
On the other hand, I usually avoid romance-heavy books, and I still enjoyed this once a lot, so your mileage may vary. In spite of there being a lot of romance, it was woven into the story well enough that it didn’t feel cloying and like the story was just a flimsy excuse for romance, a tenuous scaffolding around which romance is supposed to provide the bulk of the whole piece. It was, happily, the other way around, and that was what made it bearable for me.
While this is a very good follow-up to Exile’s Honor, it works best when contained within its own duology. Put into context with what has been established about Valdemar in previous novels, a good deal of time timeline falls apart, and events don’t fall when they’re supposed to. The same could be said about the previous novel and its telling of when the Tedrel Wars took place, but it becomes very obvious here. In Take a Thief, Bazie tells Skif that the Tedrel Wars were about thirty years prior. In Arrow’s Flight, Skif is still a trainee, alongside Talia, and Selenay’s daughter Elspeth is around 8 years old at most. In Exile’s Valor, Selenay gives birth to Elspeth less than 2 years after the end of the Tedrel Wars. The only way to reconcile this discrepancy is to assume that Bazie has absolutely no concept of time, and when he says that the wars were 30 years ago, it was really more like 5. Only there’s no reason to make this assumption. This is sadly little more than the author losing control of her own timeline, starting the whole chain reaction off with an innocuous comment made by a minor character.
But if you ignore the whole and instead concentrate on its separate parts, in spite of the inconsistancies the book still remains an interesting story filled with interesting characters. Alberich’s character especially is developed quite well, shedding light on aspects of him that wouldn’t have been thought of had Lackey not decided to do this exploration, and even with the problems it has, I’m certainly glad she did. It’s a quick read with enough intrigue and good dialogue to carry a reader along for hours, and while I can’t guarantee that those who liked Exile’s Honor will also enjoy this one (the tones of both books are quite different), I definitely recommend at least giving it a try.