The Shape of My Name March 4, 2015 The Shape of My Name Nino Cipri How far can you travel to claim yourself? The Hell of It February 25, 2015 The Hell of It Peter Orullian What will he wager? Schrödinger’s Gun February 18, 2015 Schrödinger’s Gun Ray Wood Maybe in some other timeline it would have gone smooth. Acrobatic Duality February 11, 2015 Acrobatic Duality Tamara Vardomskaya The two of her are perfectly synchronized.
From The Blog
March 4, 2015
Writing Women Characters as Human Beings
Kate Elliott
March 2, 2015
A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy That Would Please Crom Himself!
Leah Schnelbach
February 27, 2015
Goodbye, Mr. Nimoy — What Spock Meant to One Geeky 12-Year-Old Girl
Emily Asher-Perrin
February 26, 2015
Introducing the Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch
Keith DeCandido
February 23, 2015
Oh No, She Didn’t: The Strong Female Character, Deconstructed
Ilana C. Myer
Showing posts by: Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer click to see Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer's profile
Mar 2 2015 10:00am

The Last Herald Mage: It Gets Better

Magic's PawnWhen we left our hero last week, he was slouching moodily towards Haven, hoping he would someday be a Bard. This week, we’re looking at chapters four through six (and a tiny sliver of chapter seven) of Magic’s Pawn.

Here, Vanyel meets his aunt Savil for the second time, and begins to settle in to his new life. At first, things look bleak, but Vanyel’s mood improves dramatically by the end of the section.

[There’s this weird smudge on the front lobe of my left side brain]

Feb 23 2015 11:00am

The Last Herald Mage: All Vanyel, All The Time

Mercedes Lackey Magic's PawnThis week we’re looking at the opening chapters of Magic’s Pawn. This takes us hundreds of years backwards from Talia’s time to examine the life of Vanyel Ashkevron, the Last Herald-Mage, the guy whose great personal sacrifice saved Valdemar from northern invaders, and whose ghost continues to guard Valdemar’s northern border, which is located where he put it.

Vanyel is so vitally important to Valdemar’s history that his story IS the world-building. The first book in the Last Herald Mage trilogy only mentions plumbing arrangements ONCE. There’s also no mention of road surfaces or tax policies.

[This book is all action, and minimal plumbing.]

Feb 16 2015 1:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: Songs of Valdemar

Arrow's FallLast week, we finished the story in Arrow’s Fall, but we’re not quite entirely done with the book. In the final pages of the volume, Lackey has provided an appendix of Valdemaran songs. These were recorded on the album Heralds, Harpers, and Havoc, and distributed Off Centaur Publications, the Filk powerhouse of the 1980s, which went out of business the same year Arrow’s Fall was published.

It’s difficult to find a copy now, but some tracks are available on YouTube and on Grooveshark. The recordings I have found show clear signs of the degradation of the original cassette tapes. If you have fond memories of playing the tape over and over back in the day, you might not want to ruin them by listening to the songs now. If you never got to hear them in the first place, rest assured that these were slightly less musically interesting than most amateur performances of “The Wild Rover.” The song lyrics are a fun set of extras that expand on some scenes and ideas from the books.

[So what do we have?]

Feb 9 2015 9:00am

Follow Your Arrow: Love and War

Arrow's Fall Mercedes Lackey rereadWhen we left Valdemar last week, the Lady Elspeth had finally put an end to one of Valdemar’s long-term problems, the nefarious Lord Orthallen, with a well-aimed throwing knife. Herald Talia finished off another by revealing her feelings for Herald Dirk, a man who is primarily notable for being emo and having a face like a potato (although, to acknowledge his finer qualities, he Fetches like a boss).

Now, in chapters 11 and 12 of Arrow’s Fall, Valdemar faces still greater challenges: fighting Ancar’s army and planning Talia’s wedding.

[Remember in Arrows of the Queen, when a whole village got half taxes for giving Talia a second-hand cloak and some meat pies?]

Feb 2 2015 11:30am

Follow Your Arrow: Elspeth Takes Control

Valdemar Arrow's Fall rereadWhen we left Hardorn last week, Kris had been tragically slain, and Talia was being hauled off by guards while Rolan fled Hardorn’s royal palace.  

This week, we’ll look at chapters 10 through 12, which are split between two locations.  We start with Talia in Ancar’s dungeon and then move back to the Valdemar-Hardorn Border where Queen Selenay and her entourage are waiting to meet her envoy.  We’re nearing the final chapters of this trilogy, and Lackey is going to begin to resolve some of the loose threads in this plot.

Trigger Warning for torture and sexual violence within these chapters.


Jan 26 2015 2:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: When Orthallen Plans Your Vacation

Arrows Fall Mercedes LackeyLast week, Orthallen arranged for Talia and Kris to visit Valdemar’s neighboring state of Hardorn to continue discussing the marriage King Alessander has proposed between Elspeth and his son, Ancar.

Before we go any further with this week’s reread, we need to discuss the elephant in the room—which, in this case, is the cover art. The usual visual code for dire peril on the cover of a normal Valdemar novel is dramatic depiction of torn sleeves. This cover works to a different standard—Arrow’s Fall has the most ominous cover art in the 31-volume Valdemar series. Rolan is panicking, Talia has taken an arrow to the shoulder. The purples and blacks of the background suggest a dark and dangerous time. This cover promises tragedy, and chapters 6 and 7 deliver.

Valdemarans don’t leave the kingdom much—the prologue to Arrow’s Fall explains that Valdemar is on the edge of civilization and what lies beyond is unpredictable, dangerous, and frighteningly likely to follow you home and destroy your village. This section of Arrow’s Fall marks the first time Lackey sent her characters outside the country. They are going east, which is the more civilized direction.

[Unfortunately, civilized is not the same as safe. ]

Jan 19 2015 11:00am

Follow Your Arrow: Orthallen

Arrow's Fall Mercedes LackeyIn last week’s blog post, Talia returned to Haven to take up the reins of her responsibilities of Queens’s Own Herald. She’s also picking up the threads of relationships that were interrupted by her internship—she has been reunited with Elspeth and Selenay, and, although I wouldn’t say they have a relationship at this point, Talia is back within shouting distance of Dirk. But in chapters 3-5 of Arrow’s Fall, the most significant presence in Talia’s life is Orthallen.

Orthallen lurked in the background of the last two books. In Arrows of the Queen, he threatened to remove Skif from the Collegium for two years of military duty. In Arrow’s Flight, he spread the rumors that undermined Talia’s tenuous control of her Gift. Now that Talia has taken her seat on the Council, the conflict between Talia and Orthallen is on center stage. In the opening chapters of Arrow’s Fall, Talia demonstrated her willingness to use the unique powers of her position to frustrate Orthallen’s plans. In the process, she inadvertently but very clearly demonstrated why Orthallen would like the Queen’s Own to drop dead.

[He hates her guts]

Jan 12 2015 3:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: Arrow’s Fall

Arrow's Fall Mercedes LackeyIn Arrows of the Queen, Talia Holderkin ran away from home and was Chosen by the Companion Rolan to be Queen’s Own. She survived an assassination attempt, helped unravel two plots against Valdemar, and found a new family among the Heralds. In Arrow’s Flight, Talia rode into the haunted Forest of Sorrows with Kris, on an internship that turned into a fight for survival against the forces of deepest winter and her own uncontrolled powers.

Arrow’s Fall opens with Kris deep in thought as he and Talia ride towards Haven. They’re filthy. They’ve been riding for a long time. They could have eaten, slept, and even made love while riding!


[Why yes, gentle readers, they did.]

Jan 5 2015 3:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: Out of the Woods

This week on the Heralds of Valdemar reread we finish Arrow’s Flight!

Talia and Kris walked into their little Waystation in the haunted forest at the beginning of chapter seven. And now, after 80 pages in which the closest they came to interacting with a third person was having Vanyel’s ghost drop a tree on their storage shed, they are walking out. They’re rescued by semi-retired Herald Tedric and a road-clearing crew from Berrybay, and taken directly to the resupply station.

[It has a hot-water heater. I know you were wondering. ]

Dec 22 2014 4:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: Look At Your Life, Look At Your Choices

In this week’s blog post, we’re dealing with chapters 7-9 of Arrow’s Flight. For the past five chapters, Talia has been working towards emotional collapse, triggered by Kris’s thoughtless remarks. Kris has grown increasingly attached to Talia, while questioning the validity of his own feelings.

After a grueling few weeks caring for an entire village struck down by illness, a long ride through the snow, and a last-minute scramble to gather firewood in a blizzard, Talia completely loses it in the Waystation where they take shelter from the storm (Kris fumigated this time, for those of you keeping track). Her uncontrolled MindGift nearly kills her, Kris, their Companions, and two defenseless chirras.

[A lot happens here. Let me begin with the parts I like.]

Dec 15 2014 3:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: Valdemaran Public Health and Epidemiology

One of the conventions of YA literature is a journey in which the hero’s mettle is tested. Harry Potter went to the Forest of Dean. Katniss Everdeen went to the Quarter Quell. And Talia goes to Sorrows Two.

She spent Arrows of the Queen being trained and educated as Queen’s Own, and in chapters five and six of Arrow’s Flight, Kris and Talia reach their sector and her skills are put to the test. The major plot development here is that Talia’s shields continue to deteriorate, taking her emotional state with them.

In order to build that problem to a meaningful crisis, Lackey needs to show us what Heralds really do, and why it’s important for them to be emotionally stable.

[An arrow in flight must be sent with control]

Dec 8 2014 1:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: The North Trade Road

Arrow's FlightWelcome back to the Valdemar re-read! This week, we’re taking on chapters three and four of Arrow’s Flight.

Herald Destria has been injured! She broke both of her legs while saving some children from a flood, which is the kind of thing that happens when your country is mostly flat and a river runs through it. Heralds Kris and Talia are being rushed into the field to take over the circuit in her sector (which is Sorrows Two, for those of us who like knowing about Valdemar’s internal administration).

Last week, we did some Valdemaran history and geography. This week, we get to do a word problem!

[Read More]

Dec 1 2014 11:00am

Follow Your Arrow: Welcome to Arrow’s Flight!

Arrow's Flight Mercedes LackeyWe’re starting Arrow’s Flight this week! I’m super, super excited! It starts with a map and a prologue. We get a description of Valdemar’s founding! I haven’t decided on the format for my Valdemar Day celebrations yet, but now I know what events we will be re-creating! And by we, I mean me and all three Valdemar fans I actually know in person. I feel (perhaps unjustly) that Valdemar fans tend to be isolated from one another. You don’t see us flooding the Valdemar panels at cons. You don’t see Valdemar panels at cons. Valdemar fans buy enough books to justify ongoing production of lots and lots of hardcovers, but not enough to justify public space to talk about MAGIC PSYCHIC PONIES WHO RUN THE STATE and the books about them that we have been reading for over 25 years. As I begin re-reading the second book in this series, I feel strongly that it’s time for a Valdemar fan manifesto. Star Trek fans dress up in costumes and speak Klingon. Lord of the Rings Fans dress up in costume and speak Elvish. They seem to be having a pretty good time. I don’t speak Shin a’ in, nor do I ever wear costumes, and I don’t own a blue-eyed grey horse. No one has to take big steps that they’re not ready for, but let’s pull ourselves together and be open about our affections, OK? FOR VALDEMAR! Although of course, I shouldn’t say that because the state could be wrong. There is no one true way.

[There is also no rational explanation for these international borders.]

Nov 24 2014 3:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: Hail and Farewell

Arrows of the Queen Valdemar RereadThis blog post covers chapters 10-12 of Arrows of the Queen, the end of the book. This is the first book in a trilogy, so Lackey will be tying up some of the plot threads while strategically leaving others hanging. We’ll be starting Arrow’s Flight next week.

This section begins with Sherrill knocking on Talia’s dorm room door. Sherrill has been promoted from Trainee to Herald and has chosen this occasion to tell Talia about birth control. This is a handy reminder that Sherrill is an adult, and also an occasion for Lackey to remind us that Heralds are sworn to service, not to celibacy. These things are useful to keep in mind in this section of the book, which is about growing up and saying good-bye.

[Read More]

Nov 17 2014 1:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: Human Resources

Arrows of the Queen Valdemar RereadChapter seven was included in last week’s reread, but I’m looping back to it this week because it’s the point where Talia begins to take a more active role in events around her. And because it’s interesting. Between chapters 7 and 10, the backstory about the Queen’s inability to fire her nanny comes into the foreground.

As you may recall, Talia has been thrown in a river and nearly drowned, and she’s been fished out of the river and gotten to see the inside of the boys’ bathroom as treatment for hypothermia, and her friends have been acting as her bodyguards. Talia feels much less insecure because isn’t alone, so now she can start work on the major project she needs to take care of, which is firing Hulda, Elspeth’s nanny.

[Hulda is pretty well entrenched, apparently.]

Nov 10 2014 3:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown

Arrows of the Queen rereadIn this section, Talia reaches Haven, and Everything is Revealed. Indeed, the revelations are so detailed and extensive that Talia requires the services of a team of exposition fairies working in shifts. Every single person who is going to play a major role in the next two books appears in these chapters. Plus, we get a detailed description of the Collegium’s plumbing. I don’t know who invented that, but I make certain assumptions so THANKS, VANYEL!

The Summary: Talia finishes her long, puzzling ride from her hometown of Sensholding to Valdemar’s capital city of Haven. She gets food and warm thoughts from Road Guards who refuse to resolve any of her confusion about what’s going on, but do let her know that the Companion she’s riding is named Rolan. His hooves continue to chime musically on the roads.

[Further on Down the Road…]

Nov 3 2014 9:00am

Follow Your Arrow: Let’s Talk about Vanyel

Arrows of the Queen Valdemar RereadWelcome to the Valdemar re-read! This week, we’re taking on chapters one and two of Arrows of the Queen, the first book in the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy. We’ll be meeting some major characters and taking an educational trip through Valdemar’s southern half. And although he’s been dead for a couple hundred years, we learn a surprising amount about Vanyel.

The Summary: Our first look at Valdemar is a long, hard stare at Talia Holderkin, carding wool and reading a book under a tree. Look! It’s me! Carding wool and actively reading are not activities that mesh well, in my limited experience with wool. You can’t turn pages while carding, and if you put the wool down it gets dirty. Talia seems to have read this book so many times she has it memorized. She has good taste—she’s reading about Vanyel, the historical hero whose saved Valdemar from certain destruction.

[I have a few things to say about Vanyel.]

Oct 27 2014 10:00am

Follow Your Arrow: The Valdemar Reread!

The Heralds of Valdemar Mercedes Lackey reread

Mercedes Lackey’s first trilogy, The Heralds of Valdemar was published in 1987 and ’88. It was followed shortly thereafter by her second and third trilogies, and a series of other series set in Valdemar and elsewhere.

I got my first copy of Arrows of the Queen as a twelfth birthday present, back when I was a socially awkward horse-crazy kid, which means that I was basically the bullseye of the target audience for that work and for a number of the books that followed. And there have been a lot of books about Valdemar—an average of just over one a year since 1987, despite a five-year hiatus from 2003-2008. I think it’s fair to admit that I have stopped being the target audience. My relationship with Valdemar and its Heralds was definitely at its most exciting when I was twelve, but I’m still excited to see them.

[Who doesn’t get excited about magic horses that talk in your head?]

Oct 7 2014 9:00am

Peril vs. Ponies: Mercedes Lackey’s Closer to Home

Mercedes Lackey Closer to Home reviewMercedes Lackey published her first novel in 1987. Since then, she has been incredibly prolific, producing over a hundred books. Her new novel, Closer to Home, is the thirty-first in her Valdemar series.

Given her speed of production, it’ s not surprising that her work tends to be kind of pulp-y. There is a fine and long-standing tradition of trading craft for volumes in Science Fiction and Fantasy (as in other genres), and a number of writers who have made this particular deal with the devil are much-beloved. Lackey’s work has sometimes been ground breaking and it’s a mistake to not take her seriously, but it’s also a mistake to take her too seriously. Her work is head-trippingly fun.

[Read More]

Jul 28 2014 9:00am

Boy Meets Girl Trek: Peter David’s Imzadis

Star Trek The Next Generation Imzadi Peter DavidIn my life, there are two Star Treks.

The Star Trek I grew up with was mostly novels, mostly written by women. I think of these as “Girl Trek.” Girl Trek has a long, proud history. Girl Trek invented genre media fandom. It produced the first fanzines, which were lovingly mimeographed by hand and shared for the price of postage. It gave the world Sulu’s first name, an explanation for Janice Rand’s hair, and two novels with Uhura as the protagonist. Just for starters.

And there’s the Star Trek I have discovered since encountering television on a more continuous basis (feel free to assume I was raised by wolves)—mostly the movies and the television serials, mostly written by men. I think of these as “Boy Trek.” Objectively speaking, Boy Trek and Girl Trek are equal. Boy Trek created Corbomite, Fizzbin, and Harry Mudd. It offers an infallible method for outwitting computers, and valuable advice about how to behave when super-powered aliens force you to fight other people so they can judge humanity.

[Just for starters.]