The fourth book in Lackey’s Collegium Chronicles is an enjoyable and pleasant read that lightly touches on some serious themes. Mags is an appealing protagonist facing challenges (and successes) with which readers will empathize, and there’s enough forward momentum to his story to keep things interesting. But Lackey’s persistent portrayal of people with disabilities as being broken and in need of fixing is problematic, especially in a society as apparently accepting as she’s created Valdemar to be.

Mags, a young Herald trainee in the capital city of Valdemar, has a talent for Mindspeech, gem grading and generally sneaking around; so it’s no surprise that Nikolas, King’s Own, takes Mags under his wing to train as a spy for the Crown. There have been multiple incursions into the city by mysterious strangers and they seem to have taken a keen interest in Mags himself, culminating in his kidnapping and drugging in Karse. The reason for the strangers’ pursuit (and abduction) of Mags lies somewhere in his past — but he may not live long enough to figure it out. (DAW, Oct., 336 pp., $25.95)
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