Cover art: Jody Lee
ARROWS OF THE QUEEN
HERALDS OF VALDEMAR BOOK 1
Publisher: Daw Books
Published: 3 March 1987
On the cover:
A KINGDOM IMPERILED!Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a runaway, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen's own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.
But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason which could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen's heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen's own foes!
This story is pretty typical for Fantasy in its set-up. We have a protagonist that runs away from her family, and ends up being a "chosen one". Apart from the main character being female there isn't really much that is original in the basic premise. Add to that the setting is basically a School of Magic, and you wont expect too much originality. -Although it must be said that this book was first published ten years before Harry Potter first appeared in the stores, so accusing Lackey of copying Rowling when it comes to setting is totally wrong, unless you can prove Lackey has a time-machine.
The Heralds and the Companions are a great concept. And Lackey is very good at letting the reader discover more about it together with Talia, the main character. We learn a lot about the world of Valdemar and its Heralds without getting the feeling that the information is dumped on us.
We are also introduced to an interesting cast of characters, they are diverse and they have a depth to them that makes them seem like real people. That we are mostly at one location helps to concentrate more of the novel on the characters, and especially Talia's, daily life. This works very well, and adds a lot to the story.
I found the story very compelling. Following Talia's journey is a very interesting story and I got hooked on really early. There are parts of the story that concern themselves with her coming to a completely alien environment and I felt that Lackey handled that nearly perfect.
When the story turns to conspiracy and suspense it also works great. Lackey writes in a way that gets you invested in the events, as well as the characters involved in them. I did however feel that there was a bit of a problem with a change of pace in the latter parts of the novel, and the ending felt a bit rushed. It may be that the story would have been better if the novel was hundred pages longer. But that is really a minor niggle, I liked it enough that I immediately started on the next book in the trilogy.
This is a very good Fantasy novel, written in a lighter style than what most modern Fantasy is. There's no "gritty" here, and I think that is a strength. Lackey has written a very entertaining story that is by no means too "light" to be dismissed as fluff. If you like the Fantasy of the eighties, or is just tired of everything having to be dark and gloomy, I would strongly recommend you pick this up. It is also great to see Fantasy in an Epic setting that has a female main character, and if you ever miss that this is a must.