Sunday, October 25, 2015

Arrow's of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Talia is Holderkin, living with her father, his wives and the rest of their extended family in their holding on the border of Valdemar.  It is a simple life with simple rules - obey your father, obey his wives, and then obey your husband - a life that Talia struggles with on a daily basis.  She loves to read, she day dreams of a very different (and sinful) life, and she secretly dreams of becoming a Herald of Valdemar, something her family will never allow.  When she learns that she is to be married Talia commits the ultimate act of rebellion and runs away from the family holding to wallow in her misery, and when her sobs are disturbed by the chiming of bells she is soon swept up in an adventure beyond her widest day dreams.  A Companion has come to her family holding, and he has plans for Talia that include her becoming not only a Herald of Valdemar, but one of the most important Heralds - The Queen's Own Herald.

Talia is woefully under prepared for life at the Collegium and the Palace, she has little to no understanding of life outside the family holding, and the Palace is full of intrigue and danger.  The previous Queen's Own Herald did not die of old age, he died under suspicious circumstances, and Talia soon learns that she is also a target.  After years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her family, Talia is not prepared for the open and friendly manner of the Heralds and Heralds in training, and she can't help but keep to herself - especially when some of the other students in the Collegium begin a campaign of systematic intimidation and physical incidents that culminates in a very real threat to her life.  Talia is about to discover that even one small and insignificant girl child from the Holderkin can make a huge difference to her Queen and her fellow Heralds.

Arrows of the Queen was my first introduction to the world of Valdemar and every few years I am drawn back to the story of Talia and the people who become her friends and family.  There is something about her story that really appeals, maybe because there are broader themes that appeal to the teenager I was then and the adult I am now.  Talia is not perfect, she makes mistakes and learns from them, but she still makes mistakes.  In many ways her story is not that dissimilar from teenagers all over the world, she faces bullying and loss, she has to learn to make her own way in the world, and she has to discover who she really is.  Talia is a survivor on many levels and Lackey portrays her emotional scarring in a realistic way, there are no quick fixes or instantaneous revelations for her - she discovers, grows and heals in a realistic way.

Returning to old favourites is just like returning to spend time with old friends and even though I knew what was coming along the way I immensely enjoyed spending time with Talia and her world again.  If you have not discovered the world of Valdemar before then this is a great place to start, and a great place to return to if you are already familiar with the world.  I have been reading a lot of new material lately and it was something of a relief to return to a world that I know I adore and where I could lose myself in the story without having to worry about giving up partway through or reaching the end and feeling less than satisfied.  Valdemar is a world that had a huge influence on me growing up as there is a strong message of tolerance and humanity in the world of the Heralds - there is religious tolerance, same sex couples are not abhorred, and women are (usually) treated with equality.

When I first read this series it was in the teens section of the local library - these days it is in the adult fantasy section but it is one of those series that crossed between the two.  In Arrow's of the Queen Talia is a teenager coming to terms with her new life, growing as a person and into her future role.  The second two books in the series are about Talia as an older teen and young adult, so it still fits with a great deal of teen series BUT there are some pretty heavy themes in the last book that make this more suitable for a mature audience.  This is a great series for teen and adult readers, I would put the caveat that it is best suited to older/mature teens who are emotionally able to handle the themes of war, abuse and rape, and who have someone to talk to about the themes.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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