DISCLAIMER: I LOVE Mercedes Lackey and the worlds she created especially Valdemar. I am heavily biased to the world. However, my review is an attempt at impartiality... kinda.
Mags is an interesting character. His background is different from many of her former characters and we have a more realistic view of the world that initially blasted her fans into insane flights of fancy. Mags is an uneducated but very intelligent slave who ends learning about the world in and around Haven. There is tales of people being abused, people escaping notice of the Heralds and how they can do it; tales of poverty and theft on the streets of Haven; and an introduction to a new WarGame that trains Heralds and Guards while entertaining the Court and the People. The readers she is aiming to bring into her world need to have a foundation, or a setting at least. While those of us who find the information and scenes a bit repetitive may "enjoy" rolling our eyes and continuing the story, the rushed and railroaded feel of the story as she attempted to curtail the extra long explanations and stories may put a new reader off. However, I encourage a new reader to continue reading. After the introductions are done, perhaps you could go find the first book she ever published about Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen
When I first read and listened to this book Nick Podehl had no other performances. I had trepidation, but bought and listened anyway... and was thrilled! The guy did a great job, I wanted more of his performing and ended up watching for new series read by him. Eventually, he got great renown because he was picked up for another famous book series and now his portfolio is greatly expanded. I highly recommend listening to Nick Podehl wherever you may find him.