In what’s becoming an annual December tradition, ‘Under the Vale And Other Tales of Valdemar’ offers fans a collection of short stories set in the same world as Mercedes Lackey’s popular Valdemar series. Edited by Lackey, this direct-to-paperback edition contains seventeen new, original stories of Heralds and their Companions, Healers, Bards, Guards, Hawkbrothers, Hertasi and much more.

Simple Gifts’, a novella by Mercedes Lackey (although I’d hardly call a story under 30 pages a “novella”) tells an amusing story of a charming, handsome man who, *ahem*, sells his “company” to unappreciated, rich, married ladies of a certain age who wanders into Valdemar with unexpected results. In ‘Under the Vale’, Larry Dixon provides an extremely detailed description of how Hawkbrother Vales are created. Hardcore, detail-oriented fans will enjoy it; others might find it a little dry.

In an Instant’, by Elizabeth A. Vaughan, recounts the touching moments of the beginning of Selenay and Daren’s relationship at the end of war with Ancar of Hardorn. In ‘Fog of War’, Ben Ohlander describes the final brutal hours of the Tedrel War from the point of view of some ordinary Heralds.

Several of the stories in this anthology continue stories first introduced in previous years’ editions. In ‘Heart’s Peril’ and ‘Heart’s Place’, Kate Paulk and Sarah Hoyt respectively continue the story of Ree and Jem, the human/rat/cat hobgoblin created by a Change Circle and the former street child who found sanctuary in each other and a home and family in the farmhouse they happened upon together.

The Watchman’s Ball’ is another of Fiona Patton’s stories of Haven’s family of Guard members, The Danns – this time on a somewhat lighter note. This story proved to be my favorite of the anthology. Elisabeth Waters continues her tales of Animal Mindspeakers with ‘A Leash of Greyhounds’. In ‘The Bride’s Task’, by Michael Z. Williamson and Gail L. Sanders, Keth’re’son shena Tale’sedrin deals with the consequences of being Chosen, Shin’a’in and betrothed and, much to his chagrin, so does the Dean of the Heralds Collegium.

With a price tag under ten dollars, Under the Vale is absolutely worth buying. Both longtime and casual fans of Lackey’s Valdemar series will enjoy returning to the magical land she’s created. It would make a great stocking stuffer or holiday gift for any fan of Lackey’s work or just as a treat for yourself!