Okay from the very start of reading these books I knew that Vanyel was going to die in the end. The very title gives that away. He sees his own death as early as the first book. While the ending was still tragic it was also a lot happier then I thought it would be. There were also a lot of scenes that were truly heartbreaking and heroic in story. Warning for spoilers here on out.
Also a trigger warning for a rape scene, suicide and detailed discussion about both.
For starters one of the things I did like is that Vanyel starts to get some happiness again. With a young man called Stefan. The two of them take sometime to get together because of the age gap-mainly most of the issues are on Vanyel’s side not Stefan. But once that is cleared up Vanyel and Stefan are constantly doing cute couple things. But this new love interest may not be as new as he may seem. As the story goes on the reader soon learns that Stefan is in fact the reincarnation of Tylendel. I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I hated the way Tylendel’s death was handled. So the idea that he gets a second chance is refreshing after that. On the other hand it comes back this old trope of the soulmate that is present throughout the whole story. I’ve already made my feelings on this trope clear so I won’t really repeat myself but for now I will just say this. It is an unhealthy one. So I guess that one is a wash.
However another place where this idea crops up is between a heterosexual couple, the King and his healer, Randelle and Shavri. The long and short of it is that because Shavri is life bonded to Randelle she can’t bear to live without him. So because of that she sets up a healing link between them so that once he dies so will she. Because of this she dies by suicide towards the books end. Okay this is really problematic, it romanticizes suicide. Yes, losing a loved one to a long term illness can create a powerful grief and I do not deny that. However Shavri is the Kings Healer and mother of his child-who is also next in line. Shavri has much to live for even if her life bonded dies. No one not even Vanyel thinks of finding her a mind healer (yes they’re are but he is the most powerful Hearld Mage there is).
In fact the idea of suicide because of a romantic partner is actually common in this trilogy. Vanyel, Tylendel,Stefen, Shavri and the companions are all noted to die by suicide should they lose a loved one. Some of these people are stopped but others are not. While stories about people dealing with feelings of suicide are important I really don’t think this portrayal of suicide is helpful. Granted it is not the worst case of representation of grief but far from the best.
Another element that needs analysis is the gang rape that Vanyel is subjected to. I don’t really know what is say about this scene. On the one hand the scene does not shy away from how traumatic such an experience is. Vanyel experience leaves him broken and it is only with the help of Stefan, Yfandes and others that he is able to get back up and continue with his mission. On the other hand such a disturbing scene can and will be triggering for others. I don’t really know what the best approach is here but I felt I should at least draw attention to this.
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the other two for the simply reason that I knew a lot of characters I had come to love would be dead in the end. Hearld-Mages were dropping everywhere throughout the last two books. The death of Savil even though I knew it was coming was honestly such a kick to the gut. On the other hand it was also a well handled death in that it contributed to the plot and made the reader feel. So I guess this one was really going for a dark ending, which is fitting seeing how it is about the Last Hearld Mage. Vanyel is soon the only one left and has to face down the one behind it all. A mysterious figure called Learth. This use of foreshadowing was very well handled. It was interesting to see Vanyel’s long time dream finally come true.
But I did leave myself wondering if there was more to Learth, the reader only meets him towards the end of the book. From what I’ve looked online he is also a reincarnation of a character called Ma’ar. So he does show up else where. I would like to learn more about this hidden shadow. It is said in story that he is almost identical to Vanyel except with the colour scheme reversed. An interesting character I wish I had more details on. Another character I felt wasn’t given enough screen time is Gala. Yes, Gala. Why? Because it is stated in book one and repeated here in the final book that she too made mistakes. Why wasn’t she sent back to make amends for them like Tylendel as Stefan? Maybe she was and I missed it or it was only implied and not outright stated. It would have been nice to see a reincarnation of her and Stefan make amends of some kind. But as far as I can tell she does not appear.
Finally this does bring me to the ending of the book and trilogy which was a much happier ending then I expected it to be. While yes Vanyel does die leaving Stefen alone, the latter is given the task of spreading Vanyel’s story throughout the land as a bard. He does this alone, it is a repeat of what happened before with Vanyel but with a very different ending. We last see Stefen as an old man in the forest where he saw the ghost of Vanyel. Stefen vanishes into the forest and even his travelling guide can not find him. Only the pony he rode on. Next what happens is even stranger when the guide forgets that Stefen was there at all. He takes the pony and leave. The scene ends with Stefen’s instrument being left in the forest. But you can still hear the laughter of two young men who finally get to be together. Vanyel and Stefan did not get to be happy in life but they do in their afterlife.
This is not the same as romanticizing suicide as before because neither of these characters died by suicide, one died in battle and the other of old age. So it is not the same as the problem above and it’s an ending that makes it worth the read.
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