The Valdemar Reread

Follow Your Arrow: Hail and Farewell

This 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.

This seems a good time to acknowledge that, after a month of re-reading, I am no longer even trying to separate plot from commentary. They’re just all mixed together. Like Heralds and casual, contraceptive-protected sex.

There are some sad things in this section. The first, and probably the least sad, is that explanation of the roads I’ve been looking for since chapter one. The Mage/civil engineering genius who spearheaded Valdemar’s road construction is acknowledged but un-named.

In further disappointing news, Talia and Skif do not have sex. They don’t have sex three times. Which, I infer from several speeches about how much casual sex Heralds have, is kind of a lot of not-sex for Herald Trainees. Talia and Skif appear to feel the same way, and opt to hide their active not-sex life from their friends. Skif moves on to other ladies and, I presume, to actual sex. Talia is REALLY CLOSELY linked with her Companion, Rolan, and consequently has been involuntarily riding along on his very active sex life. Which, honestly? Ick. I can’t believe I know that. I’m only telling you because it’s important later. If you are struggling with this, please know that I’ve found Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together” to be very helpful.

The major change in Talia in this section is her increasing awareness and control of her Gift. She goes through formal training in using her empathy, and begins seeking out ways to use her powers to help other Heralds. She works with the Healers in her spare time. But at the same time, she loses her oldest friend. Herald Jadus dies. Jadus taught Talia to play the harp, and gave her advice when she was being bullied. He sat by her bed with a crossbow and a sword while she recovered from being thrown in the river. When Skif and Talia climbed the Palace walls in the dark of night to eavesdrop on Hulda, they brought what they found to Jadus. In the intensity of the world building in this book, it’s easy to lose sight of the theme of choosing your own family. Talia and Jadus chose each other, but we don’t choose everything. None of use chooses to lose the people we love. Jadus leaves Talia his harp, My Lady, and she thinks of him every time she plays.

Keren’s lover Ylsa dies too. She’s on a mission for the queen, carrying evidence of treason, when she is struck down by unnamed enemies. Talia accidentally witnesses this while experimenting with her Gift. Keren instantly spirals into a whirlwind of despair. In a flash of insight, Talia calls for Sherrill (now returned from her 18-month long internship), who, it turns out, is also lifebonded to Keren.

Sherrill rescues Keren from her emotional state, while Selenay takes Talia, Kris, and Dirk to a very quiet room with a mysterious crystal sphere on the table to retrieve the evidence Ylsa was carrying. Talia shows Kris where Ylsa was when she was attacked, and Dirk retrieves the arrows containing the secret messages. This unwinds the last of the plot against the queen that started with the prince’s attempt to assassinate her. Allegedly. Talia also gets to take another look at Dirk, who she hasn’t spoken to since chapter 3. He’s still ugly.

In the course of this incident, other characters reinforce Talia’s magical shields several times. No one seems to find this alarming.

In the coda, Skif is promoted to full Herald, and he and Talia pledge an oath of blood brotherhood before he leaves to ride his internship circuit with Dirk. Who sure is getting a lot of airtime for a person Talia has only laid eyes on three times.

Tune in next week as we tackle the Prologue and chapters 1 and 2 of Arrows Flight!

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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