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All writers are readers; it just goes with the territory. And I have been reading for as long as I can remember. When I first started learning to read, I devoured everything in site. It didn’t take long before my reading level was far beyond what my age suggested it should be. In fact, I remember reading books with sex scenes (not like erotica, but still) before I really understood what was going on. I just went flip, flip, flip- oh good, we’re back to the story. My voracious reading continued until university, when unfortunately my reading lists took over and I didn’t read much for pleasure anymore. Even so, I expanded my mind in new ways, with different kinds of reading and learning.

But for me, the most memorable author is Mercedes Lackey with her Valdemar series. I started with Arrows of the Queen and I was completely enchanted by her characters and her world. Who wouldn’t want an amazing animal companion of human intellect who loves you to the depth of your being. I have to admit, those Companions were a big draw for me, but so was her character-focused writing in those early books. Alberich is still my favorite character of… yes, I think ANY book, ever. His book, Exile’s Honor, came a little later in the series, but it has become my favorite by far. And it wasn’t just the characters – Mercedes Lackey has built an incredibly vivid, magical world for her characters to live in. Everything from the geography and the mix of cultures and races, to the carefully crafted system of magic, to the unique creatures that roam her world, all work to draw the reader in.

I have to admit though, I am a far greater fan of her earlier works that her more recent ones. But such is life – things change, and her writing has changed. She has expanded in new directions while I remain curled up, snuggling her old books, much beloved. Of all the authors that I’ve read, she has probably had the greatest impact on my own writing. She has an immersive, straight-forward style that discards fluff in favor of moving things along. Her imagery is vivid without taking 6 pages to describe something (I’m looking at you, Tolkien). She has her flaws, sure, but I recommend her books to anyone who loves fantasy. Start with Arrows of the Queen, like I did – it was her first book and one of her best, in my mind. Maybe you’ll fall in love with her characters and her world like I did.