The Valdemar Reread

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.

Before leaving Berrybay, Talia heals the Weather Witch. Remember how weird it was that the Waystation was so well-supplied? It was because of the Weather Witch. The Weather Witch lost her sanity when her baby drowned in the millrace, but gained the ability to predict the weather at the same time, and then pressured local officials to lay in additional stores at the Waystation. Were it not for the Weather Witch, Kris and Talia would have died.

Although they had previously ostracized her for having an illegitimate child, the residents of Berrybay have come to appreciate the Weather Witch’s timely and accurate meteorological forecasts, which have saved the local community from crop-destroying storms. Talia’s Gift shows her a mystical connection between the Weather Witch and a local orphan, and she brings Witch and child together to restore the Weather Witch’s sanity. This is convenient, because, as readers, we needed to be reminded that sometimes souls are tied together in ways that defy explanation.

In chapter 11, we jump to Midsummer, when Skif meets up with Kris and Talia to bring them the news from Haven and some mail from Dirk. Or, to put it another way, when the guy everyone assumes Talia was sleeping with meets up with Talia and the guy she’s currently shacking up with to bring them mail from the guy she’s actually in love with, who is also her current lover’s best friend. Then their Companions have sex, which Talia experiences vicariously because she can’t shield Rolan out. This is the nadir of Mercedes Lackey’s romantic plotting. It’s like Frankenstein’s Monster flayed the corpse of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dirk has sent Talia a stilted letter and some sheet music, which, in combination with Rolan schtupping Skif’s Companion and some poorly chosen remarks from Kris, leads Talia to punch Kris in the chin. You need a spreadsheet to keep track of everyone’s feelings. The connection between Dirk and Talia’s souls not only defies explanation, it defies credulity. I wish Lackey had found a more direct way to bring the Dirk/Talia relationship into the story. This is exhausting.

For the rest of this section, Kris and Talia make their second trip around their circuit. This gives them some time to reflect on Talia’s learning and for her to lead, rather than following Kris. It also revives some political intrigue. The first time Kris and Talia visited Hevenbeck, Talia dealt with a psychotic woman who was sacrificing chickens so she could turn into a wolf and kill her employers. Talia knocked the woman out, put her in the care of the local Healer, and ordered her employers to pay for her treatment. The long-term results of those decisions might encourage Talia to trust herself more, or might make her a lot more cautious. They might be of interest to Talia’s enemies.

We will never know, because when Kris and Talia return to Hevenbeck, it’s being attacked by raiders. All the locals who were involved with the first incident are killed. I’m sure that’s not how Orthallen and his co-conspirators meant the raid to turn out. And I am sure the raid was planned from within Valdemar. The raiders couldn’t have come across the northern border—if Vanyel’s Curse didn’t stop them on their way through Sorrows, Waymeet and Berrybay would have been more logical targets. Talia has been targeted by Valdemar’s inexplicably rebellious nobility since she was Chosen. It would be convenient for them if she were to drop dead on her internship. Regrettably, Lackey did not choose to describe this subplot and I was forced to imagine it myself.

In the last village on the circuit, Talia stops a lynch mob, saves a travelling trader, and punishes a murderer and rapist. She determines that her MindGift is ethical as long as she uses it for good. This is a lovely thought, even if it is uncomfortably reminiscent of Robespierre’s defense of the guillotine. Filled with confidence and resolve to do good in the world, even if they have to seek help to do it, Kris and Talia turn their chirras over to Talia’s yearmate Herald Griffon and head back to Haven.

Tune in next week for the beginning of Arrow’s Fall! I’m planning on taking on the Prologue and chapters 1-2, but I reserve the right to include chapter three if the mood strikes.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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