By Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey is a prominent writer in the fantasy genre whom I first encountered several years ago when I bought the first book in the Last Herald Mage Trilogy: Magic's Pawn. The basic story is a somewhat typical form for fantasy: the young boy who is thrust unwillingly into becoming his country's/world's only hope for survival. Lackey manages to take this overdone plot and weave a terrific story from it.
Unlike most writers who use this form, Lackey gives us more depth to her main character, Vanyel, by creating a realistic (despite the fantasy setting) and emotionally complex love story. What's more, Vanyel is gay, from a small province far from anything approaching civilization, and he has to come to terms with his own sexuality, and his parents' prejudices, as do all of us. The trilogy follows Vanyel's life not only as a hero of his country (as per the standard story line, which is secondary) but also his own turmoil with his desire for love and companionship.
Lackey's use of gay characters may become a bit overdone by the end (five out of six of the first book's key characters are incredibly beautiful gay men), but I think that each character is necessary not only for Vanyel's growth, but to underscore some more important issues.
Yes, there is an evil-to-the-bone homosexual in the story, but Lackey gives him enough dimension that one has to wonder about the kind of society that produces such a person.
The trilogy itself is comprised of Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise and Magic's Price.
Lackey is amazingly prolific and many of her books deal in some way with gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues, though she herself is, as far as I know, straight. I recommend anyone interested in fantasy novels to track down a few of her books. They range from high fantasy of the Last Herald Mage sort to some very funny novels about bisexual elves living in LA (which explains a lot).
Reviewed by Mark firstname.lastname@example.org