Cover art by Jody Lee {image via DAW}

Mercedes Lackey’s novel: Beyond: The Founding of Valdemar, Book One may be her best book yet. Published in March of 2022, it may be considered the zeroth book in the long-running Valdemar series. I’ve been reading Lackey’s books and listening to her songs since the 1980’s, and in my opinion, this is her best book yet.

PRICE: $18 U.S.,$24 CDN

PLOT Kordas makes plans to escape the evil Eastern Empire

THEME: responsibility

CHARACTERS: Kordas, Duke of Valdemar, Isla his wife, Delia, his sister-in-law, Star, a “Doll,” Lord Merrin, an imperial spy


SETTING, the Eastern Empire, a millennium after the Mage-Wars of the Black Gryphon trilogy, and roughly millennium and a half before the ArrowS of the Queen trilogy.

Who is this book for?: If you’re a fan of the previous thirty-plus Valdemar books, this is a must-read for you. If you haven’t read any of the Valdemar books yet, that’s OK. You’ll probably get more out of Beyond if you’ve read some of the other books, but no prior knowledge is required. If you like fantasy with subplots of honor and ethics like Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion books, or fantasy with political intrigue like Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books, you’ll probably love Beyond.

The Empire chews people up alive and spits them out alive. Kordas, Duke of Valdemar is a kind-hearted nobleman who hates the way the Empire wastes resources and uses and abuses its own people. He has a cunning plan to escape the empire, and get himself and everyone he is responsible for out of the reach of the petty-souled emperor, realizing His imperial Majesty is likely to take it amiss that his subjects not only don’t want to serve him, but are willing to risk their “lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor” to escape his grasp.

Unfortunately, as Lackey herself as noted in her other books “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” Kordas has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation. Kordas, in my opinion is Lackey’s most complex character.

Committing Trilogy

It’s well known that when Lackey wrote her first Heralds of Valdemar book, her friend and mentor C.J. Cherryh advised her to “commit trilogy.” Mercedes Lackey has done that time and time again. She is doing it again with Beyond. It states right on the cover “the Founding of Valdemar, Book One.” The second book in this new series, Into the West, has apparently already been released in 2022, although the bookstore nearest me doesn’t have it yet. The third volume, entitled simply Valdemar is scheduled to be released December 12, 2023

Is this book worth the money? YES! I’d recommend Beyond for any fantasy fan who can read at or above a high school level.

Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.