Arrow’s Fall by Mercedes Lackey
Arrow’s Fall (1988) is the third and final novel in the first trilogy of Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR saga (THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR). This trilogy features Talia, a girl who lived in a close-knit conservative rural area who was unexpectedly chosen as the Queen’s Own Herald. In Arrows of the Queen and Arrow’s Flight we watched Talia come to the heralds’ collegium, learn to be a herald, and go out on her first circuit of the kingdom. She has grown and matured in many ways since the beginning of her adventure.
Now, in Arrow’s Fall, Talia is back at the queen’s side, taking her designated place on the queen’s council and dispensing her wise-beyond-her-years-and-experience advice. (I have never believed in Talia’s wisdom.) The main topic for discussion on the council these days is princess Elspeth’s marriage. An excellent match must be made and there are various possibilities. When the prince of a neighboring kingdom is offered, Talia and Kris decide to go check him out. That’s when disaster strikes.
Mercedes Lackey is brutal to her characters in this final novel of the trilogy. Be prepared for some very unpleasant moments (including torture and rape) and for an ending where not everyone lives happily ever after. Be prepared also for lots of angst and brooding by Talia, who is still worrying about misusing her magic, and by Dirk who is in love with Talia but thinks she and Kris are a couple.
For most readers who love Lackey’s characters and want to know how Talia’s story ends, Arrow’s Fall will probably be successful (though many will object to what Lackey puts them through in this novel).
Readers who are feeling more critical will find several things to complain about. The villains are absurdly over-the-top and one-dimensional. The character who is tortured and raped gets over it a bit too quickly. And some of the plot just doesn’t make sense. Why do Talia and Kris go by themselves to visit Prince Ancar (why not take some soldiers)? How is that the villains (who have secret knowledge about the inside workings of the Valdemar court) don’t know more about what the Companions are capable of? Why don’t Talia, Kris, and Dirk talk to each other to straighten out their relationship problems? Why does Dirk not notice that Talia and Kris are hardly together? And the life-bond thing? I just don’t believe in that at all (nor do I find it romantic) and it feels like just an excuse to create a love-triangle. If Talia and Dirk really loved each other, wouldn’t they seek each other out and spend time together? If they did, they’d quickly figure things out. These are the same sorts of problems I’ve noted in other VALDEMAR stories.
Despite all of the bad stuff Lackey’s characters go through, Arrow’s Fall has a sweet ending that’s satisfying.
The new (2018) audio versions of this trilogy are great. They’re produced by Tantor Audio and narrated by Christa Lewis. If you’re a fan of these books, this would be a great way re-read them.
Regarding the Life-bond… as the Valdemar books continue, Mercedes Lackey seems to realize how awkward and problematic life-bonds are as a concept, and backs off from portraying them as “true romantic love” and instead portrays them as “the gods are meddling, usually to keep this particularly powerful and unstable individual from going insane (which seems to backfire about as often as it works)”
So yeah. The life-bond was probably intended to be romantic, but even the author realizes that it wasn’t really.
Does it count as a love triangle if neither Talia or Kris were ever romantically interested in each other, but at some point all three of them were convinced that they were? This book solidified my opinion growing up that any drama that can be solved by locking all the involved parties in a closet until they talk to each other is a plot tumor that should be surgically removed.
As Tom Lehrer said, “Speaking of love, one problem that recurs more and more frequently these days, in books and plays and movies, is the inability of people to communicate with the people they love: husbands and wives who can’t communicate, children who can’t communicate with their parents, and so on. And the characters in these books and plays and so on, and in real life, I might add, spend hours bemoaning the fact that they can’t communicate. I feel that if a person can’t communicate, the very least he can do is to SHUT UP.”
I totally agree with you on this!:
“This book solidified my opinion growing up that any drama that can be solved by locking all the involved parties in a closet until they talk to each other is a plot tumor that should be surgically removed.”
You are so right.