Talia is not like normal 13-year-old girls. She likes to read adventure stories and she fantasizes about being a Herald for the queen of Valdemar. She does not want to get married to one of the dreary men in her patriarchal village. So, when a Companion — one of the blue-eyed white horses who belongs to a Herald — shows up without a rider, Talia is happy to help him find his way home and stunned to learn that she’s been chosen to be trained as a Herald at the academy.
Published in 1987, Arrows of the Queen is Mercedes Lackey’s first novel and the first in her popular Valdemar series. This is a coming-of-age tale in which a naïve and wide-eyed youngster who has endured a repressive upbringing is suddenly freed and enrolled in a special school, where she makes friends and enemies and discovers that she has magic powers and an important destiny.
Like many such heroes, Talia is a good and well-meaning girl who, despite being mature and wise beyond her years, neglects to tell adults when she’s being bullied or needs help, thus getting into mishaps that could easily have been avoided. Fortunately, she deals with some equally unwise villains who tend to audibly rehash their evil plans at the exact moment that Talia happens to eavesdrop on their clandestine meetings.
Although I’ve read many books of this ilk and, therefore, found few surprises in this one, I must admit to being charmed by Talia and her story, though I’m certain I would have felt differently if Arrows of the Queen had been published more recently. Mercedes Lackey’s first novel has a nice pace (though Talia’s lessons were sometimes prolonged and too detailed), engaging characters, and introduces a world I’d like to learn more about.
REVIEW OF OLD AUDIO VERSION (posted in February 2011):
I listened to Albany Audio’s version of Arrows of the Queen, which was narrated by Carole Edie Smith. She’s a terrific actress, but she has a rather unsuitable Northeastern US accent which just doesn’t fit the medieval setting of Valdemar. I managed to mostly listen past that. Unfortunately, the next 24 Valdemar novels are not available in audio format. I may pick up the next couple of Valdemar novels in print, completing at least the first trilogy. This series has the potential to provide many hours of mindless entertainment.
REVIEW OF NEW AUDIO VERSION BY TANTOR AUDIO (Released on March 30, 2018): Finally the VALDEMAR series is getting the audio respect it deserves. This one is narrated by Christa Lewis and it’s far far better than Albany Audio’s old version. Lewis gives an very nice performance overall. I did not love her voice for Skif, but that’s okay. The audio version of the sequel to Arrows of the Queen, Arrow’s Flight, will be released on May 8, 2018. The third and final book about Talia, Arrow’s Fall (sounds ominous) will be out on June 5, 2018. I’ll be reviewing these, too.