Arrow’s Fall by Mercedes Lackey #ReadingValdemar

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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19 comments

    • I almost get dizzy with excitement because I’ve mapped out my reading schedule. I’m always looking forward to what’s next. Because I created that homework method of reading (giving myself a certain number of pages to read per day and marking them off with sticky notes), I’ve been reading faster than I used to when I was winging it. Thus, I’ve added more books to my schedule.

      • I know what you mean! I don’t tend to do TBRs etc., but when I’m reading something, I start getting excited about what I want to pick up next, and that makes me read faster.

        Glad to hear your reading is going well! 😊

  1. I totally agree about the love triangle thing being a low part of the whole trilogy. But at least Lackey solved it relatively quickly, instead of dragging across multiple books like other authors have done. There are worse things than love triangles that would be sorted out if the people would just talk to each other, but few of them are more annoying.

    • This is true. I know Jackie, my co-host, is especially irate about the physical and sexual violence at the end of the book. When we do our conversation post at the end of February, we don’t hold back on spoilers, so we’ll hash it out then.

      • Looking forward to your thoughts on it. I found it to be super frustrating, too, that Lackey really didn’t deal with it, and just said “well, time passed and it got better so here’s a happy ending everything is fine now!”. Not cool.

    • LOL! It’s not annoying so much as I’m trying to control my self-confidence. For years, I had blog posts on which a “like” notification would pop up 30 seconds after I posted the review. That sucker didn’t read my review! However, if my “likes” were too low, I would feel like, like I’d just hollered into a void. If I get rid of the “like” button, I focus more on writing, reading, and conversing. p.s. I adore you 😀

  2. You have so many wonderful, and positive, points in this review! I feel so negative compared to you… But you understand my concerns a bit already. XD I love how you connect these characters to future books. You already understand the books of the Valdemar universe so well! I definitely want to learn more about Griffon after this book — and, honestly, the other Heralds. I’m super intrigued to learn more about their gifts. There must be many more we don’t know about.

    Speaking of things we don’t know about! I am SUPER excited to read Vanyel’s story. I have so many questions about magic v. gifts. I hope they are distinctly different. Like, you can *learn* magic but you’re *born* with a gift. Or something. I want them to each mean something unique. I am super excited! Despite some graphic trepidations. #SpoilersMaybe

    Lackey 100% gets me to want to read more. I will struggle when we’re only reading one book a month… How will we stick to the schedule?! XD

    • I’m not sure how we will stick to the schedule other than stubborn will. I know that Kim has utterly read circles around us, in addition to loads of other books!

      I feel like my review comes off as very positive thanks to a couple of things: 1) knowing Vanyel’s story is better, which makes me forgiving of any authorial missteps in Talia’s story, and 2) The things that bother me are things I want to get into in our conversation post instead of a review. If I get too deeply into the things that bother me in the review, readers who aren’t following may feel very lost. I’m trying to stick to the classic reason people review books: to recommend (or not) that someone else buy/borrow the book. I think the way Talia’s story is a leaping off point for so many other books and gets me painfully excited about reading made it worth it to read.

      • In my case, stubborn will and a library circulation desk. XD My copy of Magic’s Pawn still hasn’t arrived… Darn it.

        Of course Kim has run circles around us! She’s amazing like that. Plus, she’s read most of this Universe already, yes?

        You have a great perspective about the conversation posts. You’re right – the purpose of a book review is to recommend the book or steer people away. I’ve always found it difficult to review series books because of this. I struggle to separate previous book content unless I dig into the things I love/hate deeply. Before I write future reviews, I’m going to re-read your Arrow’s Flight/Fall reviews to see if I could learn a thing. 😉

  3. I really like how you shared which series characters will next appear in! I think I am going to take a break this month from Reading Valdemar, but if you and Jackie really like the next trilogy, I might pick it up in April and be a bit behind. I am going to need to do some research on which trilogies I want to attempt. I definitely think I’ll pick up the owl books…

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