I decided to read through all of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar novels in order of publication date, for a fun challenge. I’ve read most of them before, so the majority of these are rereads, but that doesn’t stop them from being fun and enjoyable, nor worthy of a review. I see lots of bookblogs talking about how books more than a year past their publication date often get shafted when it comes to new reviews, and I certainly don’t mind giving my opinions on some old favourites, or even new-to-me books that have been out just this side of forever.
And so without further ado, I give you my review of Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen.
Summary: A KINGDOM IMPERILED!
Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a run-away, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen’s own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.
But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason which could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen’s heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen’s own foes!
Thoughts: This book introduces the reader to what I consider a sort of proto-Valdemar. It’s the author’s first book of the series, her first novel entirely if I remember correctly, and after having read some of her later works, I can say that it shows. It’s not quite as polished and refined as what she writes later on down the road, but the seeds of an expansive world are sown here and it’s interesting to see.
It isn’t very action-heavy, so those looking to this as a sword-and-sorcery type novel will end up disappointed. Like many of the books in the Valdemar series, it’s very character-driven, and can at times appear slow. Even I’ve thought sometimes that the books could have stood a little more action… until I glance down at the page number and realise that I’ve spent 100 or more pages being too engrossed in the character development to even think about it until that point.
This does serve as good background reading to a lot of the more technical aspects of Valdemar and life as a Herald-trainee. Details only briefly mentioned in other books get a full explanation here, which often are done fairly seamlessly as Talia, the main character, is a sort of blank slate. She’s had a very sheltered upbringing and starts off the book knowing only the barest things about what Heralds are and what they do. So other characters get the chance to fill her in and tell her tales and legends and details. Not an uncommon trick in stories, to fill in the reader without resorting to pages and pages of narration and history, though it does get a little bit tedious at time.
It is always a bit strange to me, going back and rereading this novel, because so many tiny little things contradict for many larger things that Mercedes Lackey established in later books. The cause of death of the previous King, the timing of the Tedrel wars in relation to Elspeth’s birth, possible relations with Karse at the time of this novel (mostly glossed over, I admit, but still somewhat suspect), the implication than Vanyel and Lavan lived and died at roughly the same time in history, and these are just a few I can name. Taken on their own, within the boundaries on this book in this particular trilogy, not a single thing is contradicted, but within the confines of the series as a whole, there are lots of little things that change, and some rather large things.
Why yes, I have read this series to the point of near-memorization.
Despite this book being the first novel of Valdemar, I wouldn’t recommend it to those who have never read anything of the series before. It is too slow at time, and doesn’t really pick up pace until very near the end and then continuing into the next novel. I’d recommend starting with the Winds series first, or doing as I did and discovering Valdemar through the Last Herald-Mage series instead. Save this trilogy for a time when your love of Valdemar has been established, because sometimes it can be hard to remember that this book was written decades ago and that the author’s style has improved greatly over the years. If I’d started here, I admit I may have been bored away from the series entirely. As it is, I enjoy this book for its backstory, for the expansion on characters I got to know from other novels, and for its simplicity.