Sometimes, the most interesting characters are the ones who aren’t “heroic” characters yet who save the world, anyway. Set a character like that into a world literally dissolving into chaos, and anything is possible.
The Mage Storms trilogy takes several of those characters and gives them a nearly impossible task: work together to save the world, even though they don’t always like or even respect one another. Much slower and with even less action than Lackey normally has, this is still one of my favorites of the Valdemar trilogies because the world building goes so deep.
Title: The Mage Storms Trilogy – Storm Warning, Storm Rising, Storm Breaking
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Date Published: 1994, 1995, 1996
Genre: High Fantasy
Number of Times I’ve Read It: At least 20—I honestly have no idea
Content Warning: None
Accessibility: Available in eBook, audiobook, and print as individual books and an omnibus
Storm Warning (4/5 Stars)
With her phenomenal Mage Winds trilogy, bestselling author Mercedes Lackey captivated fans across the country. Now in the first volume of the series sequel, she continues the same storyline, returning readers to a war-torn Valdemar in preparation to confront an ancient Eastern Empire–ruled by a monarch whose magical tactics are beyond any sorcery known to the western kingdoms.
Storm Rising (3/5 Stars)
In Storm Rising, mysterious mage-storms are wreaking havoc on Valdemar, Karse, and all the kingdoms of the West, plaguing these lands not only with disastrous earthquakes, monsoons, and ice storms, but also with venomous magical constructs – terrifying creatures out of nightmare. Both Valdemar’s Heralds and Karse’s Sunpriests struggle to marshal their combined magical resources to protect their realms from these devastating, spell-fueled onslaughts. But as the situation becomes bleaker and bleaker, the still fragile alliance between these long-hostile lands begins to fray. And unless Valdemar and Karse can locate and destroy the creator of the storms, they may see their entire world demolished in a final magical holocaust.
Storm Breaking (4/5 Stars)
As Storm Breaking opens, the western allies, led by Karal, Karsite Sunpriest and delegate to the Valdemaran Court, and the Adepts Firesong and An’desha, have traveled deep into the Dorisha Plains to locate the ancient ruins of the Tower of Urtho, Mage of Silence, creator of the gryphons. Legend has it that below the Tower, deeply buried beneath the plains, is Urtho’s Vault, hidden stronghold of some of the most powerful magical weapons ever devised – weapons that Urtho himself felt were too dangerous to use. With the help of the Shin’a’in plainsmen, they have successfully excavated this ancient arsenal, and risked their lives triggering one of these antique but potent tools of death to unleash a monstrous burst of mage-energy. With this explosion of magical power, Karal, Firesong, and their companions have temporarily counteracted the ever-increasing waves of the mage storms. But they know that this desperate action will not save them – they have bought themselves precious time, but are still far from a permanent solution. They know now that the mage storms are an “echo” through time of the prehistoric Cataclysm which destroyed Urtho’s Tower, created the vast and barren Dorisha Plains, and permanently warped their world more than two thousand years ago. And they also know that if they don’t find a way to banish these magical vibrations they will culminate in another Cataclysm – this time destroying their world for good. But the Vault is not the only thing buried for centuries below the Dorisha Plains, and camped in the ruins of what once was the workplace of the most ingenious mage their world has ever known, the desperate allies soon come to realize that their solution may lie beneath the dust at their feet. The saving of their world just might be accomplished by the work of a man who has been dead for millennia!
While the Mage Storms trilogy is slow, it also goes deep into the magic and lore of the world. You get to see new cultures, which Lackey excels at creating, and delve further into existing ones.
The first book, Storm Warning, begins with an unusual protagonist in the sense that he is a young priest of one of the religious sects from outside Valdemar. He and his mentor allow us to see Valdemar from an outsider’s perspective, something which is mostly new for Lackey. They’re easy to become attached to. This book and the next also deal with two subplots, one romantic and the other, what appears to be simply informational—although it eventually becomes apparent that’s not all it is. The second subplot is almost a full secondary plot of its own, and it is interesting to see it play out over the three books. The crisis in this book feels very immediate, although it isn’t heavy on action. Instead, this is more like a natural disaster multiplied by a thousand, something that will affect their entire world and leave it changed, perhaps beyond recognition.
Storm Rising follows in the same vein and honestly is probably the least interesting of the three books. It feels like a lot of setting up for the third book—and that’s pretty much what it does. This is a trilogy I wouldn’t advise to read as a standalone; in fact, it might be better to read the omnibus version so it feels more like each book is just one part of a longer book. The best part about the second book is the way the characters interact with one another. It’s very believable and creates tensions that carry through to the last book.
In Storm Breaking, the crisis isn’t over yet, and in fact they aren’t even sure if they can avoid a second Cataclysm, the act that almost destroyed the world and changed magic as they knew it following the Mage Wars. The two main storylines merge as they find ways of communicating with each other, and the end is satisfying but melancholy.
I’d recommend these books for anyone who’s already hooked on the world of Velgarth and wants more world building or for anyone who wants a slower paced, more intellectual puzzle style story.
I suggest reading in publication order the first time trying to get through all the Valdemar series simply due to the way that she developed some details and how they’re introduced or mentioned in each trilogy. However, that isn’t a requirement, and there are plenty of people who have started chronologically or who just pick up somewhere in the middle.
© Allyson Pauley 2021