In the third book of The Collegium Chronicles Herald Trainee Mags spends a lot of time manipulating his friends for their own good. (I think Lackey is trying to show that Mags is very perceptive and smart with a natural ability to solve people’s problems for them. I am not entirely comfortable with the way Mags maneuvers people into doing what he wants for “their own good.”) He is also being taught by the King’s Own to work under cover and also spends a lot of time dodging the foreign spies and assassins that have been a recurring plot point in the series.
We open with a “kirball” game being played as a demonstration at a sort of school festival being put on the Collegia for the parents of the students. (Kirball is a bit like polo, a bit like soccer if either game were usually performed on an obstacle course instead of a flat field.) There are other demonstrations being performed by the Bardic and Healers, and Mags has to rescue his friend Bear from an irate family member. (Bear is very skilled at non-magical healing, something his parents have no use for. Bear is also attempting to invent the concept of “first aid kits” which his family also doesn’t approve of.) Then Mags has to cheer up his Bardic Trainee friend Lena, who is having a hard time since her father is a complete twit.
From there, Nikolas the King’s Own Herald takes Mags on as a partner for an undercover spying mission. The cover is a fence/pawnshop and Mags pretends to be deaf-mute so he can observe the customers who come into the store. This leads to the discovery that there are enemy agents inside the city gearing up for another attempt at bringing down the kingdom. (Specifically, a group related to the same agents as in the last two books, who appear to have an unhealthy fascination for Mags. We will get no closer to finding out why in this book than in the last one.)
<divstyle=”line-height: normal; margin-bottom: .0001pt; text-align: justify;”>In addition, there is a side plot involving Bear coming up for a way to fix Amily’s crippled leg, a major fight between Lena and Bear that Mags stays well away from, and the discovery that Lena’s father is not only a complete jerk, but also a plagiarist. This book managed to be a very fast read–I was able to finish it only a few hours. There’s a lot of action and a lot of teen angst and problems, the latter of which getting solved at times a little too neatly. (I generally prefer my teen drama to be a little more messy and all over the place. Mags’ ability to be Absolutely Right About What His Friends Need by Way of Advice sort of takes away that element.) For long time Lackey fans, this should be a very entertaining read, though a little frustrating in that we have yet to find out what the big mystery is behind Mags past.