Welcome to the very first “Conversation Post” on Grab the Lapels. Unlike an interview, Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku and I used a shared Google Doc to write back and forth to each other like we were talking. At the end of each month in 2019, Jackie and I will share our Conversation Post on our blogs as part of #ReadingValdemar. One thing that amused me while we “conversed” was realizing how much Jackie and I had already discussed each book in the comment sections of our reviews. I mean, chatting with Jackie is the best thing! It’s why we’re doing this! But I may keep some thoughts to myself on our reviews of Arrow’s Fall so I can spring them on her at the end of February.
Please join in down in the comment section, and let me know if you want to be in on the “Conversation Post” for February. All you need is a Gmail account.
Melanie: Here we are, doing our first co-hosted buddy read! We started with Arrows of the Queen, which was Mercedes Lackey’s first published novel. When you started reading, did you know this was her first published novel? I know I didn’t; she’s so prolific now that I didn’t even think about where she started.
Jackie: I did, but only because I did some research into the Valdemar universe when you first mentioned reading all these books. I had heard of Lackey, and I knew she was an adult fantasy author, but I knew very little else. Actually, I was more surprised that Arrows of the Queen read like young adult instead of adult literature! I know you’ve read Lackey before. What did you expect from her writing style before picking these books up? Did Arrows of the Queen fit those expectations?
Melanie: I expected some emotionally intense fiction after reading The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy about Vanyel. My friends in high school said I HAD to read it (but they never told me there were books that came before!). Fortunately, Vanyel’s story makes sense without having read Talia’s in The Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy. What I got with Talia definitely felt like young adult fantasy. It’s interesting to see how much Vanyel’s life shaped Talia’s desire to be a Herald. She has child-like excitement about Heralds based on fiction.
Jackie: I wasn’t all that surprised by much of the Herald knowledge we’ve learned. Honestly, a lot of Arrows of the Queen felt like a story I had read before. There are parallels to Harry Potter (though, we know this came a decade earlier) and even more parallels to The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the one discussion about sex and sexuality!
Melanie: Honestly, after I said that I was going to read this book and you wanted to join me, I was super worried. Not about about the sex parts (I don’t remember there being sex in the Vanyel books…?) but about painful deaths and some violence. I was so emotionally invested in The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy that we’re reading next, so I was worried that you would read the Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy and feel disappointed and think less of me as a reader. I want you to feel as hardcore about the stories as I feel. Isn’t that why we read big fantasy trilogies? Did your heart not hurt at the end of the Lord of the Rings movie (cuz I totally didn’t read the books)? Perhaps I’ve mucked things up by talking about Vanyel at all. I mean, Lackey DOES spoil stuff about him in Talia’s story and it’s possible Vanyel’s story feels just as YA as Talia’s.
Jackie: All bibliophiles worry when they recommend books to readers. I don’t mind violence or death; it’s the graphic aspects I avoid. I love fantasy! I love how we get sucked in and become a part of the world. I don’t think it’s wrong of you to be talking about Vanyel now. It’s getting me excited for reading The Last Herald-Mage trilogy. That said, Arrow’s Flight left me wanting. It didn’t suck me in the way Arrows of the Queen did. I closed the book feeling… wanting. Lackey got me super invested in Talia, and even in Kris and Dirk (amazing bromance) early on. But the plot dragged. I feel like Lackey’s writing style is already changing from her debut novel. But it didn’t feel as polished. The reading level still felt young, but the topics were more adult. The emotional experiences of the characters were shallow and juvenile, but the ways they interacted with the world were powerful and adult. Like bandit slaying and plague-saving.
Melanie: There’s part of me that wanted Talia and the other female Heralds to talk more about their “moon days.” Is that weird? I mean, I was hyper-aware that Talia is riding along on a horse quite a bit. Does she ever have to tell Kris? Does she ever not feel well? Even though menstruation is an event that happens to women and girls, I associate it with adult topics.
Jackie: I did, too! In fact, when Talia ran away for seemingly no reason from Kris and Skif, I assumed it was due to her menstruation beginning! I also wanted to hear more about Herald birth control. It’s mentioned once in Arrows of the Queen, but not once in Arrow’s Flight. My brain kept saying, “Uh… I hope they took their birth control!”
Melanie: I wonder if any Heralds ever do have children (after becoming Heralds). Okay — we’re about to embark on the last book in the trilogy, Arrow’s Fall. This conversation has pumped me up! The cover is pretty gruesome; there are dozens of arrows, one of them lodged in Talia. Any guesses as to what might happen? Or anything you want to see happen? I’d like to see Talia actually reference a situation she encountered while on her internship and use it to make a decision while serving the queen. I’d like to see more with Talia and Dirk. Are they really lifebonded, and what does that mean for Lackey now? In The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, a lifebond hits a person hard, fast, and is unbreakable. Right now, Talia and Dirk sound like crushes.
Jackie: Lackey 100% sold me old the Dirk/Talia relationship. I definitely ship it. I also Ship Kris/Dirk/Talia as a hilarious trio I want to see a ton more of. But for the conclusion? I have a TON of theories. First, Gwena didn’t exist prior to the night Elspeth became a Chosen. We have to learn about that, for sure. Second, I don’t trust Lord Orthallen further than I can throw him. I think he’s leading the faction against Talia and the Queen’s Own. Do I have proof? No way. I am just suspicious. Plus, Talia had a great debate against him in Arrow’s Flight. We need to resolve this whole Queen’s Own murder plot. And finally, I believe we are about to go to war. I don’t think this series will end with the war ending. I think this series will end with the war STARTING.
Melanie: Lackey did publish a trilogy that follows Elspeth as an adult: The Mage Winds. That trilogy is followed directly by The Mage Storms. Then we get The Owl Mage Trilogy, which directly follows the previous trio of novels. They all go together, so I think you will get your answer soon enough! But here’s the fun part: before we follow Elspeth and what happens to the kingdom, we’re going way back to meet Vanyel, the Herald-Mage hero of Talia’s beloved books! So, there will be a brief pause before we find out how this war turns out. . .
Would you like to participate in our next Conversation Post?
Are you disappointed that Lackey takes us back in time before we catch up with Elspeth in the contemporary Valdemar?