Mags, Herald Spy of Valdemar, and his wife, Amily, the King’s Own Herald, are happily married with three kids. The oldest, Peregrine, has the Gift of Animal Mindspeech—he can talk to animals and persuade them to act as he wishes. Perry’s dream is to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Herald Spy, but he has yet to be Chosen by a Companion.
Mags is more than happy to teach Perry all he knows. He regularly trains his children, including Perry, with tests and exercises, preparing them for the complicated and dangerous lives they will likely lead. Perry has already held positions in the Royal Palace as a runner and in the kitchen, useful places where he can learn to listen and collect information.
But there is growing rural unrest in a community on the border of Valdemar. A report filled with tales of strange disappearances and missing peddlers is sent to Haven by a Herald from the Pelagirs. To let Perry experience life away from home and out in the world, Mags proposes that his son accompany him on an expedition to discover what is really going on.
During their travels, Perry’s Animal Mindspeech allows him to communicate with the local wildlife of the Pelagirs, whose connection to the land aids in their investigation. But the details he gleans from the creatures only deepen the mystery. As Perry, Mags, and their animal companions draw closer to the heart of the danger, they must discover the truth behind the disappearances at the border—before those disappearances turn deadly.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
It has been so long since I read both a spy book, and one written by Mercedes Lackey. It brings me back to when I read Arrows of the Queen in high school. So being back in the world of heralds and companions felt like a blast of nostalgia. That being said, you don’t need to read the earlier Herald books. It helps because there are concepts and pieces of history that you already know, but it’s been so long for me that reading this almost felt brand new.
The Hills Have Spies is a charming story told from the perspective of both father and son. This allows us to not only witness their interactions on both sides, but to see the exchange of information and how their relationship works. This one aspect truly set the book apart for me, not only because I can’t remember the last book I read with this constellation, but also because their relationship is so precious.
Perry is an exceptional boy, incredibly intelligent and driven by a sense of justice. It is a lovely book to witness how he deals with these new challenges and broaches the boundary between his age and his ambition. I’m already looking forward to the next book because the whole family dynamic is one that will warm your heart.
But at the same time, The Hills Have Spies asks a very important question about our responsibility. It’s hard to talk about without spoiling the story twists, but it asks us where our agency lies and how we take responsibility for our own decisions. You’ll have to read to find out! Ultimately this book is good for fans of Lackey’s work and world, or newcomers who love the idea of animal mindspeech and father and son relationships.