The Heralds of Valdemar: Book 2
Arrow’s Flight follows Arrows of the Queen. Talia is all grown up: she’s a Herald now, ready to go on her field training with her mentor, the handsome Herald Kris. Except someone’s been spreading rumours that she’s been misusing her power, and her old enemy, self-loathing, is about to become magnified by her Empath abilities…
What I really enjoy about this particular book is that the Big Bad is Talia’s own self-doubts and fears. There’s some external conflict, but much of it is internal, which is fun to see. Talia doesn’t save the world, she’s not chosen for a big destiny—she’s Chosen for a smaller role as a peacekeeping gear in a well-functioning system. Sure, she has heroic moments, but she’s no Vanyel. She’s much more realistic.
BEYOND THIS POINT THERE BE SPOILERS
The real bulk of the drama occurs midway through, when she and Kris—and their Companions—are snowed in a Herald’s Waystation in the Forest of Sorrows during a mean blizzard. Several things occur: Talia loses control of her Empathic abilities, lashing out psychically with her self-hate; and Kris realizes a mistake has happened, largely due to his mistrust of her abilities.
So Kris tries to rectify the situation by teaching Talia some of the magic basics she had never learned, largely because her Empathy had been ‘mis-diagnosed’ as another Gift. Which is really interesting to me because it explores the mind-magic system further, and it’s such a struggle that it’s hard to look away. Not only is Talia struggling to master her emotions AND magic, but there’s lots of hard physical labour she and Kris are forced to do: they must shovel towards the road or else they may starve before the snow lets up. Not only that, but the spirits of the forest (the ‘ghosts’ of Vanyel, Stefen and Yfandes) don’t know whether or not Talia is a Herald or a threat, and they threaten her accordingly. Points for a uniquely drawn conflict.
Kris and Talia become lovers during this time, part out of nerves and part out of the fact that it’s really cold. I really enjoyed their dynamic this time around. As a thirteen year old reading this for the first time, I shrugged and went, ok it’s sex time, yay, and moved on. I didn’t think about the social implications, but having read many, many more sexual relationships in novels over the years, when I reread this I really appreciated. The sex is treated very casually. In fact, neither are invested in the sexual relationship: they both know Talia is really interested in Kris’s best friend Dirk, introduced in Arrows of the Queen. There is a misunderstanding later on where both are worried and assume the other has actually fallen for them; but once they actually talk about it, they become closer… and the sex is just another way to express intimacy. It’s a very progressive, refreshing attitude.
The strengths of this book are character interaction and internal conflict, and as such, there is no way this book could stand without the other books in the trilogy. However, I think the trilogy is a classic, an artifact of 80’s and 90’s female-centric fantasy. While I am ambivalent about Lackey as a writer (notwithstanding my rose-coloured glasses), I would prefer to see more fantasy that focussed on character and conflict in this manner.