BRIGHTLY BURNING by Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books, May 2000
Lavan Chitward (Lan) wishes his family hadn't moved to the Valdemar capitol and hates the idea of becoming a cloth maker like his family. When his parents enroll him in a school, this seems like the ideal situation. But the school is far from nirvana. The older students bully, torture, and systematically dominate the younger students--including Lavan.
When a number of the older students decide to beat Lavan for a supposed infraction, his dormant talent emerges--he is a firestarter. Selected by a 'Companion' (a horse-like sapien entity with the power to mentally speak to their human companions), Lavan becomes a herald--one of the judges called on to bring justice to the nation of Valdemar during peacetime. Unfortunately, Vardeman's ancient enemy, the Kalira have decided to invade. Lan is afraid to use his powers to destroy, but can he let his nation be destroyed while he stands by?
Mercedes Lackey (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by this author) has constructed a complex alternate reality with a believable magic system, intriguing history, and a fascinating relationship between companions and their selected humans. More importantly, she describes human relationships and emotions--attraction, joy, fear, hatred--in a sympathetic way. BRIGHTLY BURNING is an emotionally compelling story with overlapping human relationships.
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