It still surprises me that I’ve never written up a review for Arrow’s Flight (Fantasy 318 pages) by Mercedes Lackey, as this is the second book in the Queen’s Own trilogy, a series I read a minimum of every year or two.
“Talia could scarcely believe that she had finally earned the rank of full Herald. Yet though this seemed like the fulfillment of all her dreams, it also meant she would face trials far greater than those she had previously survived. For now Talia must ride forth to patrol the kingdom of Valdemar, dispensing Herald’s justice throughout the land. But in this realm beset by dangerous unrest, enforcing her rulings would require all the courage and skill Talia could command – for if she misused her own special powers, both she and Valdemar would pay the price!”
I think there are a lot of reasons why this trilogy in particular continues to appeal to me, even though the original copyright for the first print was way back in 1987 and I have read this trilogy repeatedly for at least a decade, if not longer. I have to admit that there aren’t very many books on my shelves that I reread as voraciously as I do this trilogy. While there are a lot of books out there I enjoy, this is my “go to” trilogy for when I’m having a rough time with things or even if I just want to read something where good, decent people are those who are successful and greed and selfishness are disgusting traits.
In the first book, Talia was introduced as a character who feels like a misfit in her own homeland so that when she’s chosen to train as a herald for Valdemar, she works extra hard to fulfill all her duties and obligations. She spends her free time working to find additional ways to help people and to make the world a better place and all of her hard work and effort is rewarded in the beginning of the second book when she finally achieves her whites, meaning her training is complete and all she has to do is finish her internship successfully.
Talia’s mentor for her internship, Kris, is often described as a very attractive young man who is used to having women continuously throw themselves at him and yet, all he wants to do is serve his kingdom as the next Dean and Historian of the Collegium. He comes from a very wealthy background where he didn’t fit in because he spent so much time studying, but not exactly what his family wanted him to study. He takes his good looks for granted and automatically assumes that everyone is attracted to him.
One of the parts of this trilogy which really sticks with me is the view on relationships in general. Talia has some really great friends, Sherrill and Keren who are a same-sex, lifebonded pair; Skif is a thief with whom Talia attempted an intimate relationship, but it didn’t work out due to their schedules, and then they became blood-siblings; Elspeth is busy being a student and learning about how to rule a kingdom. Her friends are from all backgrounds and all walks of life and all of them contribute equally to their relationships, which means it’s not one person doing all the work to keep the relationship going. This also shows that there are other relationships in order for a person to be truly healthy. Modern society spends so much time trying to push marriage partners and romantic partners on everyone as the ideal for what everyone should strive to attain in their lives and that’s actually horribly unhealthy. A true healthy lifestyle is one of balance, with close friends from different backgrounds, respected coworkers, and people whose company you enjoy. Just because you are sexually or romantically interested in a specific gender does not mean you can’t have valuable friends of that gender without a sexual or romantic relationship.
There’s a section on page 53 where Kris and Talia are dancing and the discussion revolves around Heralds and their relationships: “Face it, Talia, Heralds seldom form permanent attachments to anyone or anything. We’re friends, always, and sometimes things get more intense than that, but it doesn’t last for long. Maybe it’s because our hearts are given first to our Companions, then to our duty – an I guess there aren’t too many of use with hearts big enough for a third love.” I think the way relationships are handled in this series is also very body and sex-positive. The Heralds themselves all enjoy intimate engagements and don’t judge the casual pairings that happen after the fealty ceremony. So while Kris even talks about how rare full lifebonding is, he understands that it’s not something everyone has, no matter how much some people might want it.
Talia mentions lifebonding and “love-at-one-glance” again on page 228. Talia, having not experienced how powerful a connection can be between two people at first meeting, doesn’t quite believe in instant connections like that, but as the book progresses, she starts thinking that there might be something to that type of connection after all. As someone who has experienced what it’s like to meet someone and feel instantly and powerfully drawn to them, I can tell you that it’s something that can’t ever be mistaken. It’s powerful and a connection that strong doesn’t like being ignored. Though what happened to me was in April of 2013 and I made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of things that are horribly wrong and things eventually fell apart, that time changed everything about my entire life and I miss that person with all my heart, all day every day. I think it’s because of my own experiences with feeling a strong connection to another person that I understand a little bit more of what Talia’s going through when she starts worrying about not hurting Kris. And the reverse is also true – if that connection isn’t there, it’s impossible to force it. There have also been a lot of people I’ve met in my life that I should have been able to connect with and it just wasn’t there, which goes for friendships as well as romantic partners.
One of the things that really makes me feel for Talia is that her gift is such that she has to be constantly shielded from everyone all the time. That kind of contribution of constant energy and time and maintenance would add such an intense level of constant stress that it must really wear on her. Her experiences with her gift are detailed in this book and I think it says a lot about Talia’s character that she keeps working to understand the ethics of her gift to make sure that she’s being the best person she can be, even with the added stress of her abilities and being able to use those abilities.
I think that this book would be a great reference book to keep with you in case you ever get snowed in someplace and have to work without modern conveniences to get yourself out and also activities to pursue to keep yourself busy when snowed in, such as how they set aside time for cleaning the cabin and all their gear, as well as working to make a path out of their situation. This book really showed the difference between taking a proactive approach to overwhelming situations instead of just accepting that your situation sucks and not doing anything to improve it. Kris and Talia could have waited for rescuers to get to them instead of exhausting themselves day after day to dig a path out of their predicament, but that’s not what they did. They worked themselves to exhaustion every day and worked to make their lives better in any way they could.
Obviously, if I reread this series every year or two, I must really enjoy the book. Overall, this book is probably a high four on my rating scale, as it’s not my favorite book in the trilogy, but the rest of the trilogy wouldn’t make any sense without this book. 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. Arrow’s Flight. New York: Daw Book, Inc., 1987.