Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Lackey, Mercedes

(1950-    ) US writer who has become remarkably prolific since "A Different Kind of Courage" in Free Amazons of Darkover (anth 1985) ed Marion Zimmer Bradley, with whom she later collaborated on one of her few sf novels; she is married to artist Larry Dixon, with whom she has collaborated on some novels. Her fantasy work breaks into two very broad areas, which intersect thematically: her solo works, which are of the greater interest; and her collaborations, which are numerous. Central to her solo output is the World of Valdemar sequence, organized into individual series: Heralds of Valdemar, comprising Arrows of the Queen (1987) – ML's first novel – Arrow's Flight (1987) and Arrow's Fall (1988), all three assembled as Queen's Own (omni 1993); The Last Herald-Mage, set about 1000 years before the main sequence and comprising Magic's Pawn (1989), Magic's Promise (1990) and Magic's Price (1990), all three assembled as The Last Herald-Mage (omni 1990); Mage Winds, comprising Winds of Fate (1991), Winds of Change (1992) and Winds of Fury (1993); Mage Storms, comprising Storm Warning (1994) and Storm Rising (1995); and Mage Wars, comprising The Black Gryphon (1994) and The White Gryphon (1995), both with Larry Dixon, and which, though most recently published, are set some 1500 years before the main stories. The Vows and Honor sequence begins with The Oathbound (fixup 1988) and Oathbreakers (1989), both assembled as Vows and Honor (omni 1994), and is loosely linked to World of Valdemar via its third volume, By the Sword (1991).

The world constructed in the Mage Wars books is a Fantasyland based on a genetic-engineering substratum and lays the groundwork – for those not previously familiar with the series – for a wide range of tales, exploiting Dynastic-Fantasy and Heroic-Fantasy models in particular, with an abiding emphasis on Magic: how it operates, and how it is learned by young people undertaking their Rite of Passage into the proper use of the Talents ML has, very frequently, bestowed upon them. The governance of the world of Valdemar as a whole depends upon the relationship between those who are chosen as "Heralds of Valdemar" (i.e., those who act as consiglieri to the reigning royals, and who are mystically networked so that all know when one is in dire straits or dead) and the horses with talents who act as their Companions and Mentors. In the first-published trilogy, for instance, young Talia – whose talent is empathy – must learn how to do magic while at the same time coping with the fractious young female royal to whom, as Queen's Herald, she has been assigned. The female protagonists – one a mercenary and one a magician – of the Vows and Honor books share minds and bodies through a series of adventures in which they enjoy ultimate success. The protagonist of the Last Herald-Mage books is a brilliant young herald whose talents may be overwhelmingly great, and who falls in love with (and loses) a similarly romantic hero. Much of the overall sequence offers, as is clear, role models for young readers which extend beyond heterosexual conventions. There is no reason for the Valdemar books to stop; the Template fantasyland against which sometimes intricate tales are played out remains available for further use.

ML's second series, the Diana Tregarde Dark-Fantasy sequence – Burning Waters: A Diana Tregarde Investigation (1989), Children of the Night (1990) and Jinx High (1991) – features a female Occult Detective and Witch who helps police solve Ritual murders, cope with Vampires, etc. Again the detail-work is sometimes very considerable. The Bedlam's Bard sequence – Knight of Ghosts and Shadows: An Urban Fantasy (1990) and Summoned to Tourney (1992), both with Ellen Guon and assembled as Bedlam's Bard (omni 1992) – is set initially in a Los Angeles suffering from a Crosshatch invasion of bad Elves. The SERRAted Edge sequence – comprising Born to Run (1992) with Larry Dixon, Wheels of Fire (1992) with Mark Shepherd, When the Bough Breaks (1993) with Holly Lisle and Chrome Circle (1994) with Larry Dixon (Elvendude [1994] being by Shepherd alone) – likewise involves elves, who have formed the South Eastern Road Racing Association (or SERRA), around which various Urban-Fantasy tales revolve. ML's contributions to the Bard's Tale sequence, which she supervises, are Castle of Deception * (1992) with Josepha Sherman, Fortress of Frost and Fire * (1993) with Ru Emerson and Prison of Souls * (1993) with Mark Shepherd; these are Technofantasies tied to a computer game. The Bardic Voices sequence – The Lark and the Wren (1992), The Robin and the Kestrel (1993) and The Eagle and the Nightingale (1995), plus A Cast of Corbies (1994) with Josepha Sherman (1946-2012) – is set in a Fantasyland composed of humans and elves and subject to censorious Thinning by a Church whose dictates resemble those of Christianity.

Of ML's singletons, Sacred Ground (1994) stands out for the quality of its research (into Native American Myths), for the vigour of its storytelling, and for the original use of a Native American woman as an Occult Detective.

There is no real doubt that ML writes too fast and too much; despite the active strength of her mind, despite the number of issues she effectively addresses (Feminism being perhaps paramount), and despite the thrust of story in her best works, her prose fails, time and again, to realize the virtues that spring onto the careless page. [JC]

other works: Reap the Whirlwind * (1989) with C J Cherryh, a contribution to the Sword of Knowledge Shared-World sequence created by Cherryh; the Halfblood Chronicles with Andre Norton, being The Elvenbane: An Epic High Fantasy of the Halfblood Chronicles (1991) and Elvenblood: An Epic High Fantasy (1995); The Fire Rose (1995).

other works (sf): Wing Commander: Freedom Flight (1992) with Ellen Guon; Rediscovery: A Darkover Novel * (1993) with Marion Zimmer Bradley; If I Pay Thee Not in Gold (1993) with Piers Anthony; The Ship who Searched (1993) with Anne McCaffrey.

Mercedes Ritchie Lackey

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.