Foundation is the beginning of a new Valdemar series dealing with an era several hundred years before the “current” era, at the point where the education system for Heralds was beginning to change from “a mentor with a handful of Trainees” to and actual “Collegium” due to a sudden influx of Chosen. This creates quite a controversy among the active Heralds, many of whom are convinced that the “old ways” are superior to the new system.
The main character in this series is a boy named Mags, (Short for Magpie). Most of his childhood had been spent as a unpaid and underfed child laborer, and as a result is slightly feral. His Companion Dallen and a Herald named Jakyr (who acted as Official Pressure, since the mine owner was keeping the Companion from entering the mine) rescue him. Mags is of course terrified and confused, and due to years of abuse isn’t able to communicate very well, which leads the Herald to believing that Mags might be slowwitted at first. (The Herald is extremely surprised that Mags is actually intelligent.)
Mags at first has difficulty with settling in to his new situation, to the point where he first assumes he been “chosen” to be some kind of servant, but Dallen is able to provide a great deal of assistance. Mags quickly becomes very emotionally attached to Dallen, and doesn’t mind at all to be given the spare room above the Companion’s stable. (The room is nearly luxurious compared to his previous lodging, which was a barn. Also, he’d be close to Dallen.)
Dallen manages to help Mags with learning to use his Mindspeaking Gift, and with Mags’ emotional problems, enough that he’s able to make a few friends. One is a Bardic Trainee named Lena, and a Healer Trainee with the Nickname of “Bear” who specializes in herb-healing because he doesn’t have the Healer’s Gift.
Later he meets a man named Soren who is the master of the Building Guild, and an advisor to the King. This brings him into meeting and being “recruited” into a group of young adults who are making an effort at helping their parents by way of spying and acting as investigators and “distractions.” One of them is the Master Soren’s niece Lydia, and another is Amily, who is the daughter of the Kings Own Herald, Nikolas. Mags is invited to join, and Nikolas becomes a mentor of sorts, teaching him how to be a spy, and ethical uses of his gift.
When some strangers who have been spying while pretending to be merchants from another kingdom kidnap Bear (because one of their people has become extremely insane because he’s a mage and he’s being STARED at by adorable yet somehow deeply scary little elementals) Mags finds a way to rescue his friend.
I like this series a little more than the “Exile” books. (I felt that the cultural differences weren’t portrayed very well in the Exile books.) Mags is an interesting character and I liked him almost immediately. I also liked most of the side characters.