Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Hills Have Spies by Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey, The Hills Have Spies (DAW 978-0-7564-1317-0, $27.00, 360pp, hc) June 2018. Cover by Jody A. Lee.

Lackey returns to Valdemar with this first book in the Family Spies series, the ninth novel featuring Herald Mags, now a father with three children. His eldest, Perry, is only 13, but has been training to follow in his father’s footsteps all his life, and though he has yet to be Chosen as a Herald, he does have the very handy gift of mindspeech with animals. So when word comes of possible trouble on the border near the Pelagir Hills, Mags decides to take Perry along for a bit of training. People have been going missing, according to an older Herald living semi-retired in the area, but he’s an odd fellow without much organizational ability, and most of the missing he’s noticed are lone travelers and others who might have had reasons to disappear. Mags and Perry head out to investigate, disguising themselves as a trader and son. Perry’s thrilled, partly because he’s eager to meet new kinds of animals, which the Pelagirs have in abundance – some of which are more than ordinary animals, able to help when the investigation runs into serious trouble. Some bits aren’t entirely satisfying. Mags and Perry seem more like teacher and student most of the time, and there’s a lot of waiting with the characters isolated and action severely circumscribed while things get figured out. Perry’s young and impetuous one moment, then wishing for his Dad’s help the next, while Mags has his own trouble trusting the boy to handle things – but they’re not together, making for a lot of internal dialog, especially when the trouble turns out to be much bigger – and creepier – than anyone expected. Still, it’s an involving adventure, with more undoubtedly to come from Mags’ other kids. (Oddly, the dust jacket flap copy bears little resemblance to this story, with Mags and “Justyn” disguised as traveling players, which sounds like more of a fantasy cliché, but fun. Too bad we can’t order from alternate-world bookstores; I’d have liked to compare.)

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the July 2018 issue of Locus.
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