This book collects sixteen stories of the Heralds of Valdemar and their world, by various authors.
"The One Left Behind" by Mercedes Lackey tells of a village weaver with an axe to grind against Heralds- not only was she seduced and abandoned bya man who became one, but so was her mother. But when real Heralds come to ask her help to get her former lover, who is only pretending to be a Herald, taken in so that he can't sully the reputation of the Heralds, will she be inclined to help them?
"For Want of a Nail" by Rosemary Edgehill and Denise Cune tells the story of one of King Valdemar's first companions, a man who had stayed with him on their flight from their homeland and then sent to scout the lands around. When he finally returns to the land claimed by the King, he must deal with the Devil-Horses who seem to have taken over the King and Court. But have they?
"Softly Falling Snow" by Elizabeth A. Vaughn gives us a look into the life of Elspeth the Peacemaker, and her lover whom she cannot marry, a bard named Kyran, as she worries over the succession.
"The Reluctant Herald" by Mickey Zucker Reichert tells of Lubonne, a young man who seems to have everything in life that he desires, a productive life, a woman who loves him and is about to marry him, and satisfaction... until a companion named Carthea comes into his life and shows him how much of that is a lie.
"A Storytelling of Crows" by Elisabeth Waters tells us of an animal healer named Maia who must help and heal not only a wounded companion, but her Herald as well- and then Maia realizes that her brother is the one who hurt them, and a bandit to boot. But is there a place for her to go once her brother is arrested?
"Waiting to Belong" by Kristin Schwengel relates the story of Shia, whose love Teo is taken from her when a companion comes to claim him. Almost no one sees Shia's pain except for Calli, a new wife. Shia, who is the Herbalist of Breyburn feels incomplete without him and can't face him knowing she lost him. But when Bandits come to Breyburn, will Shia find completeness at last?
"The Last Part of the Way" by Brenda Cooper has two sisters, one a bard, one a Healer, escorting, and being escorted by a Herald whose soul has shattered on the death of his entire family. They are trying to help him but have no success until they must deal with an attack on Shelter's End, where many Bards and Healers go to retire and deal with the death of the Healer sister's mentor. Can their shared grief reach Lioran at last?
"Midwinter Gifts" by Stephanie D. Shaver has another pair of twins, a Herald named Lyle and his sister, Lelia, a Bard. Lelia is needed to help infiltrate a noble house so that the Heralds can investigate a noblewoman's many husbands and their suspicious deaths. Lelia is paired with Herald Wil, a man she has feelings for, but who is paralyzed in the presence of a woman- and who has precognition. Can they investigate the mystery without getting killed, and can Lelia get through to Wil that she likes him as more than a friend?
"Wounded Bird" by Michael Z. Williamson tells of Riga, a Kossaki merchant's daughter, and her efforts to rescue an abused servant girl from her master in a distant land. Can she rescue her from captivity and better her lot in life?
"Defending the Heart" by Kate Paulk is set after the time of the mage storms and tells of two boys being raised by an old farmer. Jem is human, but Ree is a Hobgoblin- part human, part cat, part rat, and many people are made uncomfortable by his appearance, so when soldiers come to the farm, he is sent to hide while Jem and Garrad meet the soldiers. They claim the land in the name of a Lord, but accept some furs in exchange for the taxes But when they decide to take Jem as well, it will be up to Ree to rescue him and the other children they have taken before they can be worked to death for soldiers "Lord".
"Matters of the Heart" by Sarah Hoyt continues the story of Ree, Jem and Garrad, and their adopted sister Amelie, who Ree rescued from the soldiers. When Garrad's son, Lenar, who has been a soldier for the Emperor, returns to the farm, he objects to the relationship between Jem and Ree. But is Ree doomed to run off and be a wild Hobgoblin, or can he convince Lenar that he's just as human as Jem is and deserves to stay with Jem, Amelie and Garrad?
"Nothing Better to Do" by Tanya Huff has a Herald discovering a baby out in the woods. It belongs to a woodsman who is dying, and he asks Jors to take the Baby to his sister, who lives in a nearby town. How much work could it be to look after a baby? When you have never done so before?
'The Thief of Anvil's Close" By Fiona Patton tells the story of Hektor Dann, a guardsman of Haven set to find the thief who has been stealing from Master Blacksmith Edzel Smith, a most complainingly cantankerous man who claims that a thief is taking off with items from his shop. He claims to know who the thief is, but can Hektor find the real thief and show Edzel the proof?
"Twice Blessed" bu Judith Tarr is the story of two girls whose families were close friends, but who despised each other in all things. When each girl is chosen by a Companion, each is sure that only she is chosen and is ready to lord it over each other. But when it turns out to be the same companion, can they put aside their dislike for each other to work together to save a missing sheepherd?
"Be Careful What You Wish For" by Nancy Asire takes Doron, a man of Karse who has turned to banditry and crosses him with Tomar, his nephew, whose family fled Karse for Valdemar, and who eventually became a herald. But when the bandits Doron travels with captures Tomar, can the older man keep his nephew safe without revealing who he really is? And can Tomar offer his uncle a way out of the life he is leading and give him a happier future?
"Interview with a Companion" by Ben Ohlander takes a reporter looking for a scoop named Dave Matthews and crosses him with a Companion for an exposé on the racing industry and a look at Valdemar from the eyes of the Magical Horses who defend it.
All of these stories are about literally (in some cases) changing someone's world. From falling in love to complete changes in someone's view or outlook, I could set all of them in the world of Valdemar. Well, except for "Wounded Bird", as I didn't recognize any of the places or peoples in that story as being recognizably of the world of Valdemar. But then, maybe it was from one of the smaller Kingdoms near the Ice Wall from one of the Mage Storms trilogies.
In all I enjoyed all the stories in this collection except for the last one, which was really ho-hum to read. All the other stories at least had points of interest (and all of them much more than that) except for "Be Careful What You Wish For". As the final story in the collection, it left a great deal to be desired. On the other hand, the other stories more than make up for it.
I enjoyed this book a lot, and the stories brought something interesting to the table- some more than others. There's a lot of sorrow and heartache in this collection of tales, and a lot of laughter and joy as well. My favorite story was definitely a toss-up between "The One Left Behind" and "Waiting to Belong". Both told very similar stories (Someone being Chosen causes problems for those left behind in their wake) but each approach it from a different direction and both come to a different, but wonderful conclusion. Highly recommended.