Where We Left Off . . .
Arrows of the Queen: book nerd teen named Talia from misogynistic village is Chosen by a Companion, which is a mystical horse, to go to school to learn to be a Herald and the Queen’s right-hand woman.
Arrows Flight: Talia finishes school and goes on 18-month internship with Kris from whom she learns to control her Gift of empathy while snowed in a cabin for months and argues that his uncle, Lord Orthallen, is a big ol’ creeper plotting against Talia.
And now, for the final book in the Heralds of Valedmar trilogy . . .
Much like the previous novel, Arrow’s Fall has a slump, except this time it is the first 100 pages. Talia lost her virginity to the gorgeous and well-bred Kris while on her internship, but it’s common for Heralds to engage in sex without attaching romantic love to it. But at home is Kris’s best friend, Dirk, with whom Talia has lifebonded (basically an unbreakable romantic love) but doesn’t fully realize it. These first 100 pages feel like a love triangle that would be solved if someone spoke up.
There are two problems: 1) Talia and Kris won’t talk because she’s still accusing his uncle, Lord Orthallen, of treachery, which Kris doesn’t want to hear, and 2) Dirk won’t talk to Kris or Talia because he’s afraid of getting in their way if they are in love. And how could they not be? Kris is so good-looking and well-bred, and Dirk is as attractive as hay.
The point of Arrow’s Fall is supposed to be that the prince of a nearby kingdom wishes for the hand of the heir, who is still a teen. Both Queen and Talia have bad vibes over this, especially the way Lord Orthallen is really pushing for it. The Queen sends Talia and Kris to go ahead to meet the prince and his father in their kingdom about a week before the Queen and her envoy get there. If there’s danger, Talia would feel it with her Gift and Kris could send warning with his Gift.
Once I got to this part of the book, I was all in. There’s danger and I was made to feel deep emotions over the consequences of Talia’s and Kris’s trip. I discovered magic is not totally dead — the prince has at least one magician and one witch. The Heralds assumed the last Herald-Mage (meaning possessing both a natural Gift and able to do Magic) died hundreds of years before, so what does this mean for future trilogies set in Valdemar? Exciting!
Though Arrows of the Queen felt a touch juvenile, Arrow’s Flight too slow, and Arrow’s Fall ended on a twee note, I did care for the characters and feel invested in their lives, especially at the end of this last novel. Above everything, love is at the center of the Herald system: friendly, familial, romantic, and sexual love all exist in Lackey’s Valdemar books. Love of Companions and loyalty to kingdom create bonds that imply Heralds can always trust each other, and what a world to live in. I feel safe in the assured love in Valdemar.
Minor characters are brought back and pushed to their limits in this final installment. Griffon, introduced in the first book, returns during an epic battle to use his incredibly rare Firestarter Gift. This made me more excited that I bought the one-off novel called Brightly Burning about the legendary Lavan Firestorm, the only other Firestarter any Herald can think of. He was mentioned when we were introduced to Griffon.
The heir to the throne, Elspeth, grows and learns challenging lessons as she goes through puberty and teen feelings. She listens to advice during the epic battle but takes matters into her own hands by using her Gift in an impossible situation. Readers will get more of Elspeth in the Mage Winds trilogy, which I’ll review in April.
There was also more Skif, the street urchin and thief who became a Herald. He goes on to teach his thief-sneaking and tricksy dagger throwing to Elspeth. He remains a good friend to Talia, advising her on how to sort out the Dirk-Kris situation early on. He’ll also come back in Take a Thief, which I plan to read next year.
For me, the best thing about Lackey is that she makes you want to read more, and you feel insatiable. To get to Skif’s story, I have to read several other trilogies (well, I don’t have to, but feel like I need to). There’s one more trilogy before I get back to Elspeth. Lackey was wise enough to know that the infamous Heralds of lore in Talia’s time, like Lavan Firestarter and Vanyel, deserve their own stories, and so she wrote them. I feel greedy when I think about how many books there are!
I’m almost too enthusiastic about jumping into the next trilogy, The Last Herald Mage, this month. Readers go back in time to learn about Vanyel, who is the hero in Talia’s books and a legend among Heralds. There’s a lot I didn’t cover in this review, so be sure to catch my conversation with Jackie @ Death By Tsundoku at the end of the month!
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