I must admit - I probably have worn out 2 or three paperback versions of this series, as well as the Arrows of the Queen series (of which only book on..Show More »e is currently available for audio.) I remember my introduction to Misty Lackey, at the last convention she attended (Dragoncon 2000 - and therein hangs SEVERAL tales, but) - this is the first series I read where there was a protagonist who makes you cry and makes you laugh, and makes you feel the plight of the outcast so comprehensively that you CAN"T read only the one book - start one and before the week is out - you will be hunting down book 2 and 3 to finish the story off.
Fair warning - Vanyel is gay. Now, having MET Misty and Mark Shepherd (who sometimes co-writes with her) - I've sometimes wondered just how much of Mark is IN Vanyel - but she doesn't make it into a big deal. (She never really does much in the way of romance in her early works, and while the series DOES skew PG - I don't think Misty's ever written an "R" rated sex scene - and if you want X - look elsewhere.)
This trilogy is my favorite of Valdemar, immediately after come the Winds trilogy and the Oath books plus Kerowyn's By the Sword. It is heartwarming ..Show More »and heartwrenching and deeply roots in your life experience without having to actually live it. Somehow Mercedes Lackey manages this despite too much exposition that could have been used as points of relationship development (i.e. Stef's recollections of his life history that could have been better better used for conversations with Vanyel). Her characters become completely real , except for the villians who are simply evil. Though my literary tastes have become more complex over the years, I still loved listening to these almost as much as the first time I read them many, many years ago (and a couple times since).
The narrator's voice and characterizations were excellent. The only thing that brought a 5 star performance down to 4 stars was a persistent mispronunciation of certain key words and a few English words as well. While they are made up words, it seemed obvious to me that shaych has a ch sound like cheese and not any other breathed gutteral or sh sound; also ashke should be ash-ke not ashk, and I always heard VANyel not vanYEL. While this can be overlooked and the story still enjoyed, I think a bit of research on unfamiliar words could have improved the performance to perfection.