The first I finished is Foundation, the 27th book in the Heralds of Valdemar series (I think? I've lost count at this point, lol). This is the first of what I presume is going to be a subseries trilogy; the second is due out later this year. Chronologically, it's near the beginning of the series, though. (Lackey jumps around with the books and doesn't write them all in the order that they occur, which I think is pretty cool because it gives more variety.) It's really difficult to explain this series to someone who hasn't read it without sounding crazy (I tried recently to explain Heralds and Companions and Tayledras and everything to my fiancé; I think I just confused him because there's just so much info that goes into this series!), so here's the wiki page about the world, if you're curious, and this link will take you to the small blurb about Valdemar, specifically. If you're into fantasy, I'll definitely recommend this series. It may not be epic like Tolkien's (the Valdemar books aren't young adult, but I'd say they're pretty close), but it's a highly detailed world.
Foundation is essentially a book about a young teenaged boy who is rescued from a horrible life by being Chosen by a Companion to become a Herald. Said main character, Mags, is extremely quiet and withdrawn and has never really known kindness, so it takes him a while to get used to being a Herald Trainee. He does make some friends along the way (notably a trainee Bard and Healer, as well as a few teens who aren't at the collegia but end up being part of the intrigues happening there) and he's able to come out of his shell a bit. He also picks up some training involving his Gift that allows him to eventually save the day. That's kind of par for the course with a book involving a Herald (outcast teen overcomes adversity and ends up being helpful), but Lackey is really good at writing characters, so none of them are alike.
I really like Mags- he's quiet and thoughtful but not really lacking in self-confidence despite his upbringing (or lack thereof), and that appeals to me. He may not be a character that you instantly love, but he's not one that has any annoying qualities, either. He just keeps to himself. I'm hoping in the next book in the series we'll find out more about the other characters; because Mags keeps to himself so much, we never learn too much even about his closest friends.
I was a bit iffy about this book because of less than stellar reviews I found and the fact that it came out a good five years after the last Valdemar book, but I'll admit that I was pleasantly surprised; I enjoyed this one just as much as any other book in the series (actually, more so that some- I'm not big on the Winds books). The only real problem I had with the book is that ending was rather rushed. The pacing of the rest of the book is steady, but the biggest action of the book takes place in about one chapter; I'd rather that had been flushed out more. I'm sure that seemingly random ending will fit into the next book, but I just wish more had gone into it in this one.
For some geeky observations, I'm kind of surprised that the characters in this book caught on to what the vrondi were, but I guess since this is only a generation or two after those things were set on watch, they haven't been completely forgotten like they are a few hundred years later. Whatever the reason, I caught on to what was going on long before the characters did, so when they pinpointed what was going on, I couldn't help going "finally!". lol!
I'll admit that when I first got this book, I was confused as to what the title referred to. I kept thinking "But there's already a Herald's Collegium, isn't there? There's been Heralds for ages!" This book directly follows chronologically the subseries that I'm most familiar with (The Last Herald Mage), so I couldn't figure out what changed to allow this one to be called "Foundation". Once I started reading this book, I figured out what I had wrong; I think I had assumed that the Heralds had always had a collegium like the Bards and Healers did (learning through different classes and multiple teachers) and only the Herald Mages were apprenticed (is that the word?) to an older Herald. I feel so silly for assuming that, though, because it turns out all Herald trainees were educated that way and that's where the term "Foundation" comes from: now the Heralds are getting the same kind of education as the Bards and Healers because there are too many Herald trainees to have them learn from a single teacher, so their collegium has been founded. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about Velgarth (I have been a fan for over a decade), so I feel like a fool for not catching this sooner. In my defense, it has been a few years since I last reread the series.
I'm torn between giving this book 3 1/2 stars and 4. I really enjoyed it and think it's a great addition to the series, but I'm not entirely happy with how the ending worked. I think I'll pick 4 stars, though, since the rest of the book was great. :)