Saturday, August 29, 2009

Valdemar 14: Arrows of the Queen (Lackey, M)

Rating: 4
Year: 1987
Genre: Fantasy
Read again? Yes

First in the Herald Talia trilogy, and 14th in the long, long, long long saga of Valdemar that spans 2,000 years and seems to take as long to read. Twelve more to go...but 7 of these are the thickest of the set. Fortunately, these are the better books. They begin shortly after 1376, the year King Sendar died in battle and his daughter Selenay took the throne--a few years after the events in "Take a Thief," since Skif is still a Trainee.

"Arrows" introduces us to Talia, a 13-year old girl who doesn't quite fit into the culture of the Holding, a farming community where the men own everything. Women have only two choices: marry or pray. Talia doesn't want either choice; she wants to be a Herald. She runs away--and is shortly met by one of those spirit-horse Companions.

She doesn't even realize that she's been Chosen, because the Holderkin don't hold with the ways of Heralds. And no one she meets along the way can tell her what's going on. Convenient, in that it keeps her frightened and confused for the entire chapters-long ride to Haven (the capital of Valdemar).

Once she arrives, she learns that she's to become the new Queen's Own Herald--a sort of "BFF" for the Monarch, advisor, tie-breaker in votes, bodyguard, confidante, and representative. The idea of a Monarch's Own Herald is that there needs to be one person upon whom the person wearing the Crown may depend in all ways, someone who will always be honest and solid.

Her first job--in addition to training to be a Herald--will be to tame the Brat, Queen Selenay's daughter Elspeth.

Her next job is to survive; the people who engineered the murder of the previous Queen's Own quickly get to work on killing her, as well.

As with the first "Oathbound" book, Lackey puts on an affected "fantasy" voice that puts me in mind of the bloody 'orrible Olde Englishe crap they use at a Renfaire, mixed with some fairy-tale. Fortunately she loses it pretty quickly as the story develops. I can see where a new reader might take this "voice" as meaning that this is a kid's book. But by the end of this trilogy, as with the end of the Vanyel trilogy, our main character gets tortured and raped. Not kid stuff.

An issue that I've got with this trilogy is that Lackey seems to take every opportunity to insert a convenience that will conveniently pop up again later; the first two books are riddled with set-ups for rescuing Talia from her captors in the third.

Aside from this (and Lackey's fussy style), a good read.

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