Welcome, readers, to my first book review of #ReadingValdemar in 2019! I’ve had other readers text and leave comments for me about Arrows of the Queen. They’ve finished it, and I’m hearing excitement in their messages. Jackie, my co-host, has also reviewed our first book.
Here is a bit about the book: Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey, published in 1987, is the first in the “Arrows Trilogy.” It’s also called the “Original Trilogy” because it’s the first book Lackey published set in the Valdemar kingdom. While people online argue over where to enter in the Valdemar books, most agree it’s the Arrows Trilogy. Chronologically, it is not the first book, but it is the first published. Lackey later wrote more trilogies, taking her series back thousands of years, and I’ll explain the big difference: magic vs. Gifts. A mage is someone who uses magic. A herald is someone who has a Gift. The last mage died centuries before the characters in Arrows of the Queen.
About the plot: the protagonist, Talia, is a thirteen-year-old girl living in a “Borderland” of Valdemar. Basically, it’s a tiny, socially-backward village on the far outskirts of the kingdom of Valdemar, about two weeks by horse. Readers learn that Talia loves books about heralds, and especially Vanyel, the last herald-mage. In Talia’s village, men marry several wives who produce tons of children, and in the opening chapter, Talia has been summoned by all her father’s wives. She’s told that at thirteen, and with a year of regular periods behind her, she’s now ready to be married off and make more children. Distraught, Talia runs away, knowing that by spending the night alone she will never be welcomed back (in case she had “relations”). This is when Roland Chooses her . . .
Roland is a Companion, which are brilliant white horses that bond with a Chosen human who becomes a herald. They feel a love deeper than any other, and Companions have personalities more like people than horses. They are much faster, and after more bonding, many Chosen and Companions can share thoughts. Oftentimes, when a Chosen dies, so does the Companion.
Roland takes Talia to Valdemar, though she doesn’t know this. As a farm girl from a polygamist community, she thinks she’s returning a Companion to his real Chosen herald — as if a Companion could get lost. Distrustful of men and aggressive women, Talia has a hard time adjusting to everything. But people give her food and clothes along the way until she ends up at the Collegium in Valdemar — where the Chosen train to become full heralds. Can it be true that she’s going to be a herald, just like Vanyel from her book?
Even better. Talia was Chosen to be the Queen’s Own Herald, a position that requires Talia advise the queen and shape the heir into someone worthy of being Chosen herself. But people who would see the heralds dead and the queen dethroned lurk in the Collegium and around the heir, poisoning her behavior to ensure she’s never kind enough to be Chosen.
Arrows of the Queen gives lots of information about who heralds are, what they do, how they study to be heralds, how they cultivate and master their Gifts, and what a Companion is. Talia goes to classes and trains with Roland, always aware that heralds rarely live to see retirement. Lackey’s older characters mention battles they were in, planting seeds for future trilogy spin-offs. Each student and teacher at the Collegium has a history. Because all the heralds and herald-trainees are from different locations and circumstances, each is interesting and could be his/her own trilogy.
Since much of the novel is introduction to Lackey’s newly-created kingdom, only in some small part is it about the politics of the kingdom. If you think about how the average trilogy is shaped, I’d argue Lackey is going to follow the same arc. I’ll bet readers go into book two with Talia older, with new students who look to her as a mentor, but the problems still remain as heralds fight to hang on to the throne and their peaceful ways.
I enjoyed Arrows of the Queen and was reminded of why I loved reading Lackey in high school. Although new Gifts are found and cultivated at just the right times, I never thought Lackey clumsily used magic to fix problems. And her threat of heralds not living to see old age always lurks in the margins. The plot isn’t free of romance; it develops and withers naturally, and readers get a variety of gay, straight, and lesbian characters. Overwhelmingly, I love that the heralds are peacekeepers who defend themselves, each other, and the people in Valdemar from evil. Heralds can’t lie or cheat, and Companions never Choose someone with hatred in their heart. I’m always glad for goodness.
A thoroughly enjoyable start to #ReadingValdemar! And don’t forget add the link of your post to participate in our June giveaway! You can create a list, do a video review, create something that you might share on Instagram, or write a review. Each book-focused post earns you two entries into the June giveaway.