Monday, October 6, 2014

Arrow's Fall by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's Fall is the third book in the Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy.

With Elspeth, the heir to the throne of Valdemar, come of marriageable age, Talia, the Queen's Own Herald returns to court to find Queen and heir beset by diplomatic intrigue as various forces vie for control of Elspeth's future.

But just as Talia is about to uncover the traitor behind all these intrigues, she is sent off on a mission to the neighboring kingdom, chosen by the Queen to investigate the worth of a marriage proposal from Prince Ancar. And, to her horror, Talia soon discovers there is far more going on at Prince Ancar's court than just preparation for a hoped-for royal wedding. For a different magic than that of the Heralds is loose in Ancar's realm- an evil and ancient sorcery that may destroy all of Valdemar unless Talia can send warning to her Queen in time!

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With this, the final book in the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy, we see many different plots come to maturity. Chief among them of course is Talia's story, for we finally get to see her taking on her full responsibilities as Queen's Own and we see her dealing with her personal problems and relationships in a much more mature fashion. Her main story arc comes to a close here, with most of her various relationship problems finally being resolved one way or another, though as the Weatherwitch Maeven had predicted in Arrow's Flight, her greatest joy is preceded by her greatest sorrow and by the darkest time in her life. The ending isn't really that, however, for as is a recurring theme with these books the ending of one thing is often simply the beginning of another. So, while the immediate introductory story concludes here, a much larger story that will encompass Valdemar and several of her allies and enemies is only just beginning.

As noted above, Talia shows a great deal more maturity in this book than she has in the previous two, largely owing to her having gained far more experience both with her duties and with life in general by this point. While still independent and wont to keep her own counsel much of the time, she's no longer quite as reluctant to seek and accept help from those around her when she feels she's a bit out of her depth or recognizes that the expertise someone else may have in a given area could be of great help. She also is no longer as afraid to stand up for herself or to let people know what she thinks which proves to be both good and bad, for while she is beginning to make people take her seriously and treat her with the respect her position deserves, it also leads her into saying a bit too much and making a bad situation worse when frustration causes her to lose her temper with at least one of her friends at a crucial juncture.

As with the previous two books in this series, it's very difficult for me to comment on the general story on it's own at this point, for I could not avoid having the whole larger story that arises from the events of this book in my head as I was reading. As momentous as some of the things that happen here are, it really is merely the opening act in a much larger play. Still, I have to acknowledge that on first reading, and perhaps even the second, there are many scenes in this book that are quite shocking, and, well, heartbreaking doesn't even really begin to describe some of it. Be sure to have the tissues handy, for you will most likely need them. Even knowing what was coming, and having read it so many times that I've become largely desensitized to much of the emotion here, a few key scenes still had me tearing up a bit.

I have to say that I'm already slightly regretting having set the bar so high this early with my ratings, as I've not really left much room to indicate how much better I believe some of the books to be than these. Still, it wouldn't be fair to downgrade my ratings on these, for they are fully deserving of high ratings on their own. If I had to compare the books just within this trilogy, I would probably rank Arrow's Flight first, this one second, and Arrows of the Queen third. They are, of course, all very much worth reading, and are all books I'd recommend, even if only to have a better idea of the background to some of what comes later. 4½ stars to this book, rounded up where necessary.

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