In 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.
Rolan takes Talia to the Palace in Haven, which is also the Collegium. The guards there take Rolan away and leave Talia to meet Elspeth, bratty heir-presumptive to the throne of Valdemar, and Selenay, the queen. Selenay explains that Valdemar is facing a crisis. In order to inherit the crown, Elspeth has to be Chosen by a Companion to be a Herald, which won’t happen unless she becomes a decent human being. Unfortunately, Elpeth’s nursemaid has been spoiling her, and the result is a looming succession crisis. The previous Queen’s Own thought he had a solution, but sort of mysteriously died before he could implement it. In other words, the kingdom is facing a crisis that has claimed the life of the highest-ranking Herald in the land because Selenay can’t fire her nanny.
The Queen’s Own Companion went out to wander the countryside to find someone who can solve Valdemar’s problems, and after two months has finally returned with Talia. Who now remembers being chosen and needs a crash course in all of everything so she can become the new Queen’s Own.
Talia is excited to have travelled so far, both geographically and in the scope of her personal agency, but she’s also worried that she won’t fit in. She’s shy and she has to over come the dysfunction and cultural alienation she has grown up with back in Sensholding.
We, as readers, benefit from a third person perspective that assures us that everyone thinks Talia will grow into her awesome responsibilities – although it doesn’t really matter what they think. Rolan has chosen for them, and they don’t have the power to suggest that Talia be reassigned to floor-scrubbing so Rolan can go find someone who takes a more enlightened view on spanking. Talia can’t see all this, so she continues to feel insecure.
This section is particularly heavy on the world-building. If you’ve never read the book before, then you need these five mainly expository chapters that introduce absolutely everyone. By name. Usually at length. Dirk appears for just long enough for readers to notice that he might be important later. Skif picks some pockets and starts warming up towards an attempt to flirt. Weaponmaster Alberich starts teaching Talia knife-fighting. In my favorite character introduction ever, Talia shyly eviscerates her future mentor, Kris, for mansplaining. Retired Herald Jadus starts giving Talia voice lessons. We get to know the Collegia surrounding the Palace. There are four of these, color-coded for our convenience. Grey is for trainee Heralds, Red for Bards, Green for Healers, and Blue for Slytherin. The introductions are so extensive that Talia takes a whole class just for more introductions. This is the context in which we discover that Vanyel died horribly, and that Talia has been disowned. And while that information is all great and useful, Lackey makes some bizarre choices about what readers need to know. These chapters also introduce Valdemar’s hot water heaters. And all the palace’s kitchen equipment.
In chapter 5, Talia starts getting bullied. I have never in the history of literature been so thrilled to see someone get shoved around, because it means that finally something is happening. It also means that I’m a horrible person. It’s terrible that Talia is getting bullied. It wreaks havoc with her insecurities and also continues the nefarious plots against Valdemar’s government. The nefarious plotters and their horrible children attempt to drown Talia in an icy river in chapter 7. Rolan leads her dramatic rescue, closely followed by Talia’s friends Keren and Sherrill who drag her out from under the ice! The knock on the head seems to have made Talia psychic! Talia will take some time to recover from concussion and pneumonia, but the plot is back in motion.
What’s your favorite introduction? Tell me in the comments and tune in next week!
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.