Book info

Brightly Burning (2002)

Brightly Burning (2002)
Rating
4.03 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0575072962 (ISBN13: 9780575072961)
languge
English
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publisher
gollancz
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Brightly Burning (2002)
Brightly Burning (2002)

About book: Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar is a brightly drawn, vivid world, perhaps not terribly unique in its particulars, but remarkable enough in terms of its social & magical structures. Unfortunately, at least in the case of Brightly Burning, the world is populated by flat, unlikable, and inconsistent characters. Furthermore, Brightly Burning suffers from a plot that is hastily conceived and poorly executed.Lavan Chitward's life is suffering. At the start of the book it was a struggle to determine how much of Lan's struggle was meant to be sympathetic, and how much of it was meant to be hilarious. There's some overblown teen angst because his parents just don't understand him and he doesn't want to have a job or do chores or anything like that, so instead they send him to a school where he is mercilessly bullied. I feel like this was the part of the book that gripped me the most -- there was emotional tension, palpable danger, and I felt like Lan grew as a character during his time at school. However, Lan's gift soon awakens and he moves on to the Collegium.As a new reader to Lackey's Valdemar, I found the structure of the Collegium fun & engaging, if not particularly inspired. Still, the plot started to drag here -- by the time the midwinter festivities rolled around, I was struggling to finish a chapter per day. Strangely, the narrative doesn't really pick up from that point onward -- there's about as much time devoted to inconsequential travel as there is to the big climax at the end. Which, I think, highlights the fact that the book suffered badly from a lack of conflict. The bullies in the first portion of the narrative provide a source of conflict, but once they're dealt with, and all the loose ends concerning that are tied up, there's no real driving force behind the narrative. Of course there's the war with Karse, but it's strangely absent from the narrative, and, as another reviewer noted, feels tacked on. I guess the foreshadowing at the beginning of the book implied a very different story than the one I eventually got.Furthermore, while the writing itself was perfectly serviceable, even enjoyable, there were two big weaknesses to the craft of the novel: (1) dialogue, which bordered on unrealistic and even hokey at times, and (2) action sequences, which were especially notable towards the end of the book where we got detailed descriptions of the armies' movements, but no real sense of the battle, or of the impact of the battle. Furthermore, several times the same sequence of events were retold from both Lan and Pol's perspective with nothing unique or valuable added to the retelling.Still, the greatest flaw in the book lies, at least for me, with its characters. I failed to get a firm grasp on Lavan as a character. He started off as a whiny teenager and grew into someone with very little in the way of personality. Was he witty? He had his moments, but they were few and far between. Was he observant? Some of his comments would lead us to think so, but considering how absurdly obvious he was to Elenor, I would hesitate to attribute this characteristic to him. He was certainly (and understandably) angry, but aside from some (very understandable) reactions, I got no sense of character from him.Similarly, Pol and Tuck also fell flat. Pol was the generic mentor/dad and Tuck was the token best friend who was conveniently capable of whatever quality was necessary. Kalira had some personality, but since all her interactions were reactionary to Lan she was similarly hard to pin down. I guess I rather liked Elenor, which meant that this book was certainly not for me. Indeed, Elenor's treatment was abhorrent -- she's constantly dismissed as whiny, naive, useless, and stupid (even by her own parents). For the last half of the book she has this completely inexplicable crush on Lan that serves no narrative purpose. It's never acknowledged, it never causes anything to happen, and her presence is ultimately completely meaningless to the plot. I was expecting her to sacrifice herself for Lan or something similarly tragic, but she mostly just mooned over him then got over it.And, to tackle the elephant in the room, I was pretty weirded out by the whole life-bond thing with Lan and Kalira. Not necessarily because it was a dude in love with his not!horse (though that was strange) but because it happened to immediately. It was just mentioned off hand for the purpose of causing Elenor angst (to no real end) and didn't play much of a role except in the last fifteen pages or so of the novel. I really would've been okay with the life-bond if there had been some growth or acknowledgement of it, but it was mostly a vehicle for the tragedy at the end which made it feel cheap, rather than meaningful.I'm intrigued enough by the world to try other Valdemar novels by Lackey, but Brightly Burning itself was a disappointment and a trial to read.

This review has been crossposted from my blog at The Cosy Dragon . Please head there for more in-depth reviews by me, which appear on a timely schedule.Lavan is an unremarkable young man who doesn't want to follow in his parents footsteps. Instead, his parents send him off to merchant school to see what can be made of him. Sadly, the bullying at the school is horrific, and poor Lavan can find himself getting angrier and angrier with no outlet. That anger has to find its own outlet somehow.This novel (an old favourite) is everything that the Collegium Chronicles promised, but didn't deliver. Lavan is fleshed out in great detail, you love hearing his perspective on things. The level of description is just right, and even if you're familiar with the Valdemar series, you'll appreciate the background that is thrown in.One of the more skilful literary techniques in here is the foreshadowing. You hear very little from Herald Pol at the beginning, but that little bit is very important. A bit more between each of those characters, perhaps something from Elenor would be good, but overall I love this novel as much as the first time I read it.I'm not sure the life bond between Lan and Kalira is that convincing and fits in with the other things in the series. Elsewhere it has been said that lifebonds only occur between those with a tendency to depression and the other partner who can save them. Lan just gets super angry, not depressed most of the time, although there are hints when his gift first begins to show.This novel is just after the Herald Mage series and it's obvious that Lackey has tried to tie it in as much as she can. So chronologically, it is between Magic's Price and Oathblood. The cover on the left is not the one I have. I have one which fits in far better with the rest of my collection of the novels.I'd probably say this one was suitable for older teens and adults. The ending is sort of depressing and uplifting at the same time.
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Reviews
Kryss Summers
A wonderful tale of Valdemar. I think it is set after the Collegium series, but not sure exactly when that would be. Of all the Valdemar tales, this one made me weep at the end. Lan and Kalira were a great team and I can definitely see why the author wanted their stories to start and end in one book. Hence the title.Some characters in this tale are a worth note... Macy, Lan's sister, who is the only one in his fmaily to understand him and be happy for him as a Heraldic Trainee. Owyn, who helped
Dixie A.
This is an emotional story. Many of my favorite Mercedes Lackey stories are; she seems to have a gift with the whole abused teen genre. The bullying I went through was nowhere near as severe as Lavan's, but his struggles still remind me of my own. A little too much really; on subsequent rereads of this book, I tend to skip much of the bullying scenes, finding them too emotional to stand.In this book, Lavan is a merchant's son who doesn't fit into the family mold. They send him off for schooling, hoping that'll help him pick an appropriate profession. (They don't approve of the only profession he prefers, that of a guard.) However, bullying is rampant at the school, ranging from verbal to the physical. Lavan resists as long as he can, but when they finally corner him, he snaps. And the bullies find out firsthand why Lavan is remembered to history as Lavan Firestorm.Most likely he would have faced criminal charges, except that a Companion chooses him while he's healing. Which makes him a herald. And the heralds have uses for a gift like his. Especially with war on the horizon.Lavan's bond with his Companion, a lifebond, is the other thing that makes this story stand out. She loves him completely and utterly, something that I was desperate to feel as a child. So this book is also a comfort to me when I feel down.
Chuck
I'm behind on my blogging, so this will be fast. Sometimes, when you do something the second time, you do it better. This novel is the book that "Magic's Pawn" could have been. Lavan is a misunderstood child of middle class parents who mean well but don't "get" him. He is suffering soulfully and mightily . . . can anyone say "Vanyel" from Magic's Pawn?But Lavan is truly picked on, and, when he is pushed to the point where he is about to be killed, maniests the ability to start fires. At this point he is "chosen"--selected by a mystical horse-being with supernatural and superhuman powers--and taken into the care of the Heraldic Collegium, sort of the Valdemarian equivalent of a cross betwee West Point and Bright Divinity School.Ultimately, once the country is threatened, he is called upon to use his power to protect Valdemar, and he becomes known as Lavan Firestorm.Like "The Last Herald Mage" trilogy, Lavan's tale is part of the mythology that Lackey has created. SPOILER ALERT--not only do we know Lavan is going to die, but, if we've read any Lackey at all, we know he's going to die before we even start reading.And yet, unlike Vanyel's talke, even though I knew what was going to happen, I found myself reading breathlessly to the end. It's a rare author that can keep a grip on you even when you know how the book will end; Lackey has that ability.Good stuff.
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