Oh dear, oh dear, OH DEAR. It’s not often that a book makes me feel betrayed, but Eye Spy – the second book in Mercedes Lackey’s Family Spies series – managed it.
Moving on from the The Hills Have Spies, which concentrated on Mag’s son Peregrine/Perry, this one focuses on Abidela/Abi who has a curious ability to sense stress in artificial objects – a gift demonstrated quite spectacularly when she senses a bridge is about to collapse moments before it tumbles into the river. This is, sadly, the most interesting thing that happens for nearly 200 pages. Most of the book revolves around Abi learning her gift, while dealing with the occasional machinations of a former student called Dudley Remp who she had humiliated earlier on in the book when his wandering hands attempted to grope her.
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There is a brief excursion to try and locate a lost inheritance, but it is literally not until the last third of the book that anything approaching an actual interesting story takes place, when Abi and some other Masters are despatched out of Valdemar to help some villages outside the border, only to discover that someone has been there before them, impersonating them, and trying to discredit them in the eyes of these new potential allies.
This book is a huge disappointment following on from the far superior The Hills Have Spies. It feels not only like a massive missed opportunity, the blurb on the back of this paperback edition is borderline deceptive. The summary reads:
“Her Gift may also grant her a distinct advantage – there won’t be a building in the entire kingdom of Valdemar with a secret room that she doesn’t know about. With the help of her mentors, she must hone her gift to uncover the hidden secrets in the depths of Valdemar.”
That doesn’t happen. They briefly mention its potential for spying, and as mentioned before, in one part of the book she’s sent to locate a lost inheritance, but “the hidden secrets in the depths”? NOPE! Not a single one to be found here! She’s far more interested in building a bridge for most of the book which, newsflash, just really isn’t that interesting and in fact other than the bridge collapse at the beginning, and the search for the inheritance, her Gift is barely used for anything useful. At all.
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It’s not used to find secret passages or hidden rooms, not used to identify potential weak points in enemy structures, not used to see if someone is walking in the room above them by tracking the shifting stress in the floor or rafters. It is completely and utterly pointless. Even the end of the story, where something interesting actually happens, has nothing to do with her Gift.
There is one other thing in this novel that makes no sense, and that is Mags himself. One of the plot arcs in the first book of the Collegium Chronicles was Mags working to lose his accent, and by the end of that series, and the beginning of this one, he was speaking perfectly normally. However after a single scene here, he immediately backslides, throws all the years of practice out the window and starts talking like he’d just been pulled from the Mine. WHY? There’s no explanation ever offered for why this has suddenly changed.
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Abi, as a character, is pointless. At one point the narrative jumps forward THREE YEARS, showing how little of interest is happening with this character. The story as a whole is pointless despite a half-hearted attempt at the end to inject a little morality into it and cast some shade on the way Valdemarans see other countries. The status quo is maintained and it is hard to feel that Abi has really grown or evolved as a character like Perry did.
Those folks who identify as Ace and/or Aro may find something to enjoy here as Abi is most definitely leaning that way, but other than this there is nothing to recommend here. Nothing at all. This book is a huge let down. Completionists only. Nothing will be missed if you choose to skip this one.
I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. Disappointed that this is a book from the same author who gave us characters like Vanyel, Skandranon, Yfandes, Firesong, Skif and Alberich; who gave us the Mage Storms, Arrows and Last Herald Mage series. There’s no spark here, no memorable characters or moments. It feels like a story going through the motions.
Eye Spy, the second book in the Family Spies series, is out now from Titan Books.