It kind of surprises me that I’ve never written a book review for Arrows of the Queen (Fantasy 320 pages) by Mercedes Lackey, considering how many times I’ve read this book and this series. I think I wind up reading the entire series about once every year or two and my paperbacks are getting a little worn.
“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!”
I think this book appeals to everything I enjoy about reading. The story starts with a young girl who doesn’t fit into her world. She is addicted to reading and stories as well as other “unseemly” behavior like riding horses. She wants to do something more with her life rather than just be an object for her arranged marriage, have endless babies, and do household chores. She wants to be something more than a house-wife, to serve something greater than herself, but more than anything, she wants to be free to make her own way in her life. I relate to this on a level I don’t think I can ever adequately describe. I think this book appeals so heavily to me because of how much of myself I saw in Talia. She was determined to succeed and determined to find her own path. She worked hard in all of her assigned tasks and always gave everything her best effort. And she had no desire or ability to fit into a world wherein she was a housewife, which is definitely me. I mean, even the idea of marriage to her is pretty much her nightmare.
This book also appeals to the desire many people might have to secretly find out they’re someone special and they’ve just been outcasts in their own worlds because of that specialness. It’s the same or similar concept as a lot of comic books, especially Marvel Comics, where the main characters are just ordinary people, living normal lives, and then someone of means approaches them to tell them they’re having problems fitting in because they’re actually special. I think many people want to believe that there is something unique and special about them that would make them capable of accomplishing the impossible because it’s something they would be not only adequately suited to accomplishing, but tasks they would enjoy. Even Queen Selenay in chapter three discusses that being a Herald isn’t like how it’s portrayed in the tales because it’s work that’s either tedious or dangerous and sometimes both at the same time. She marvels that anyone would ever want the job, let alone dream of it as their heart’s desire.
I guess this really sticks with me because I firmly believe that not everyone is capable of doing the same tasks. Some people are fantastic mechanics and machines just talk to them. Some people are chefs of the highest caliber who can make delicious food out of the most random supplies. Some people are great writers, or artists, or managers. Everyone has different skills and different abilities and trying to fit everyone into the same mold only causes everyone issues. I think that’s another part of this story that really resonated with me – the idea of the Collegium is what I think schools throughout the world should be like because you are put in classes based on your own desires and your abilities. While some classes are mandatory for everyone in certain fields, you can start and stop the classes whenever you want or whenever you’ve caught up to where you want to be. It seems like very individualistic training and learning and that appeals to me because of the freedom and respect given to all the trades.
One of the best parts about this book to me is the incredible diversity written throughout the story. While attention is never specifically drawn to this diversity in the sense that every page doesn’t discuss the race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation of the characters, it’s mentioned when each character is introduced and it’s all just an accepted part of life. Keren and Ylsa are a same-sex lifebonded pair and it’s something that’s acknowledged and accepted as something that just exists, the same way that Alberich is described as being tall, lean, and dark with a scar-lined face. The characters in this novel simply are and they don’t require any sort of justification for being who they are, nor is their diversity listed on every single page. This book was originally published in 1987, which says a lot about the story because that means that this book was published at a time when same-sex pairings were particularly discriminated against and diversity wasn’t exactly something publishers were seeking out.
Obviously, if I reread this series every year or two, I must really enjoy the book. This book is easily a solid five on my rating scale. I don’t know if that’s mostly because of where I was in my life when I first read these books or if it’s just because of how much of the characters and the story I relate to, but it’s definitely a book that I’m happy to own and reread frequently. I even have travel copies that I take with me on my extended research trips, that’s how much this series means to me.
Works cited: Lackey, Mercedes. Arrows of the Queen. New York: Daw Book, Inc., 1987.