Mercedes Lackey has been on “rewrite the fairy tales” kick for awhile. Between the Elemental Masters series and the Five Hundred Kingdoms series I think she must have covered most of Western traditional fairy tales. From a High Tower is the latest in the Elemental Masters series. There’s a very slight nod to Rapunzel, and then it goes its own way.
It’s been so long since I read the Valdemar series that I don’t remember if this has always been true, or if this is just a side effect of re-writing fairy tales, but her style is very much that of someone telling a fairy tale. There’s no real connection to the characters and all the activity is one step removed. Characters are always good or evil. Good characters always suffer tremendous pangs of guilt when they have to fight the evil characters, but bravely carry on – while in the back of their minds they worry that perhaps there could have been another way. Evil characters are just evil because, you know, they’re evil. Presumably they were born that way and don’t need any special motivation.
This is not to say that the books are not well written. They’re just curiously bland. They’re the kind of books I read when the stack runs out. I can always take a break if a better book comes along and not really miss it if it takes while to get back to the story. If you’re looking for a good fairy tale may I recommend Patricia McKillip or Robin McKinley instead?