This a delightful continuation of the story of Mags, the Herald Spy of Valdemar and his family. The last novel dealt with his son Perry (Peregrine) and this one deals with his daughter, Abidela, known as Abi. Abi wants to be a part of her father’s circle of spies, but she has no Gift and has not been graced with a magical Companion, the sentient shimmery white horses each Herald has.
But one rainy day as she and her friend, the Princess Katiana, are about to cross a midtown bridge in the capital city of Haven, Abi suddenly is overwhelmed by the sense the bridge is on the verge of collapse. She gets everyone to leave, and just as she leaps to the other side, the whole thing collapses into the river.
So, Abi does have a very unusual Gift…she can sense the weakness or instability in a structure and warn others of its impending collapse or its serious need of repair. This applies to even the strain of a hillside about to slide down.
With the proper training, between the Healers and the Artificiers, Abi is not only able to feel the problem, but “see” where the actual weakness is. And her ability extends to even secret rooms hidden in a structure. Her ability earns her the right to redesign the bridge that collapsed.
One of her first official uses of her ability is finding a long-lost treasure secreted in the home of a lady. She is bound to a wheelchair and is in desperate need of the finances the treasure can provide to rebuild her home and lift herself out of hardscrabble poverty. Ta-da...Abi finds the cleverly hidden gold and the King (and Abi’s family) are delighted with her success.
Because of her success, Abi is sent on a mission for the King, about halfway through the construction of the bridge. Small, independent city-states near the border of Valdemar and Karse are interested in perhaps joining Valdemar. But they want to see what the kingdom can provide besides Heralds and border patrols. So it is decided that Abi will go with a few other master artificiers, a few mercenaries for protection, and a Herald who will communicate with his Companion who will then tell the King how things are progressing.
Abi and the other three Masters will visit these towns and help repair and build various items, to give the folk and idea of the range of abilities and services Valdemar can provide. Their efforts are met with caution and some suspicion since the villages and towns they visit have had little truck with folks from Valdemar. Most have their own hedge wizards and mages. Magic can only be used outside of Valdemar because there is a protection over the kingdom that does not allow the use of magic without driving the user insane.
As Abi and her companions make their way through the territory they are dogged by attacks. Who wants to keep them out of these towns and villages? Who wants to sabotage their efforts to encourage ties with Valdemar? With cleverness and intelligence, they discover the answer is a bit of a surprise. It makes for a tense and satisfying ending. ~~ Sue Martin
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