Arrows of the Queen (Heralds of Valdemar) by Mercedes Lackey is the first book in the series. This guest review was written by Janet Webb aka @JanetNorCal for April’s TBR Challenge. No ebook could be found (cries)
Thank you so much to my Canadian farmwife friend who very kindly gave me this book. Here’s the backcover description:
“Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a runaway, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queens’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.”
Here’s what I liked — this book evoked memories of coming of age masterpieces, like The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. It was wonderful that the heroine, rather unusually, was the focus of this coming-of-age and into-your-powers book: usually it’s a young man’s journey into manhood. I knew nothing of the author or the date of publication (1987) but when I put it down, I was struck by how subtly and believably notions of women’s equality, contraceptive access and acceptability, and casual acceptance of same-gender relationships were woven into the story. I guess that truly makes it fantasy. Talia, when she came of age, was told directly how to manage contraception: there was not even a hint that this was anything but a personal decision and that whatever she decided would be the right choice for her.
It was an adventure, a boarding school tale (seriously, I was thinking shades of Harry Potter when I read about Talia’s years of tutorship and learning when she was part of the Queen’s Kingdom). There were even rich, entitled mean girls and boys — would-be Slytherins. Although the school was a place of learning and growth, the world, with all its conflicts, was omnipresent. People died, conspiracies were always present — growing up, for Talia, was never presented as an entirely safe haven.
What I did not like, particularly, was that the book did not end. By that I mean I did not know Arrows of the Queen was the first book in a continuing series. Perhaps I have been spoiled by reading too many romances but there was no conclusion to Talia’s story. If I had known that, my expectations might have been different. Also, and maybe I was expecting a shape shifter or something, I kept thinking the love of Talia’s life was going to be her horse-companion Rolan. Not so far. Ah well. Would I recommend this book? Yes, wholeheartedly, to a lover of high fantasy especially. It is beautifully written and absorbing. For me, it just was not the satisfying conclusion I “expected”. So that makes it hard to grade. For me, a B, for someone else, probably an A. I will pass it along to my 20 year-old daughter: I have no doubt she will enjoy it very much.