Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review: Arrow's Fall

Arrow’s Fall
Author: Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Series: Heralds of Valdemar Series #3
Pages: 293
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: January 5, 1988
How Received: Own

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!

My thoughts:
[I tried making this spoiler-free, but it ain’t working, so it’s a bit on the spoilerish side].

I loved this last installment to the Heralds of Valdemar series. That’s pretty much all I have to say – it’s a tie for my favorite book out of all three (the tie being with the first).

I think Mercedes Lackey read my previous reviews, because the pacing went up by a considerable amount. There were only a few places in the text where the plot lagged, and even when it did, I could see why it was written that way. Elspeth grew a lot this novel, I think, despite the meager amount that was written about her. You’d have thought she’d learned with the whole Hulda incident to not trust anyone wholeheartedly unless you were absolutely sure of them, but apparently she needed a second slap in the face before she learned her lesson. She came a long way from Arrows of the Queen, and I loved seeing the entire process from the Brat to Elspeth-in-the-third-book.

About a fourth into the novel, the plot really picks up. Talia and Kris set out to Hardorn, and you get this feeling of foreboding from the very get-go. The trip there is actually interesting (I felt myself skip a bit of the in-between towns in the second book), and it didn’t take pages upon pages. Talia ends up getting captured – a seemingly hopeless situation – and we almost lose our main character. I love (albeit a very... twisted love) the way Lackey portrayed Talia’s captivity. As a writer, I would not want to write the vile things Talia endured, but Lackey did just that – not in a way that I’d want to throw the book into a wall, but rather in a way that made me sympathize with Talia and want to hold her until her hurt went away.

The way she was rescued was... beyond awesome. I can’t even tell you all how much I was jumping up and down (yes, even after my 10th re-read!). The war... wasn’t that great, compared to other wars depicted through fantasy that I’ve read. It was just so-so; nothing totally epic. I have to admit that I loved how a side character that barely had any face time got the “glory” (and I loved him since book 1, anyway!).

One thing about this book, though... is honestly... prepare some tissues or something. When I went through my first read of this third book, I sobbed my eyes out (I was 10, leave me alone D: ). This time around I didn’t sob, but I did get teary-eyed. No matter how many times I read this series/novel, the one thing that will never change is how I feel about... what made me cry. I felt like I lost a part of me (okay that may be over-dramatization). It was hard not to feel that way, when Lackey does such an amazing job of developing her characters that you feel like they’re your very personal friends.

The wedding at the end was nice and simple (or so it seemed, compared to the lavish decorations Elspeth and the others came up with initially). I was so happy Talia and Dirk finally got together in the end, and I loved the way it led up to its inevitability: hope, confusion, misunderstandings, sickness, capture, reuniting, confessing, and absolute love. Kris’ gift at the end was what made the novel so awesome, and made me write a more hyped review. If you want someone to blame, blame him! :P I... loved that he didn’t back out on his promise.

Cover Musings: This was a definite improvement over the other covers. The view of Talia with an arrow wound just made me want to tear the book open when I first saw it. It also gives a sense of the dire situation and urgency (Rolan looks like he’s going to bolt!). Anyway, the arrows definitely correlate with the title Arrow’s Fall (ooh, I detect vagueness!).

Memorable Quotes:
“‘Is that all you missed? Food? I might have known. Poor abused brother, did Talia make you eat your own cooking?’
‘Worse—’ Kris said, grinning at her, ‘—she made me eat hers!’” (pg. 30)

“She went white-lipped with anger and hurt. ‘Fine, then. [...] I wash my hands of both of you! You can both go to Hell in a gilded carriage for all of me! With purple cushions!’” (pg. 100)

“‘Once she had her way with me, she was off to other conquests. Oh, the perfidy of women! When will I ever learn? My heart is forever broken!’
‘That’s the first time I ever heard that ‘forever’ equaled the time it takes to boil an egg,’ she replied wryly.” (pg. 125)

“‘I feel like I’m walking into a darkened room, knowing that as soon as I light a candle I’ll discover I’ve walked into a den of serpents and the door’s been locked behind me.’” (pg. 169)

“‘That’s a fine way to talk about your elders! Although I hate to admit it—but with Skif, ‘contamination’ is pretty accurate.’
‘Do I hear my name being taken in vain?’ Skif nudged Cymry up to ride beside them.
‘Most assuredly, my fine, feathered felon. I was just warning our innocent young Heir about associating with you.’
‘Me?’ Skif went round-eyed with innocence. ‘I am as pure—’
‘As what they shovel out of the stables.’

“It was too late now for anything but compelte commitment—and besides, he’d been willing to die to save her, hadn’t he? Was the lowering of those barriers any greater a sacrifice? Was life really worth anything if she wasn’t sharing it?” (pg. 232)

“‘Dearest,’ Talia said with laughter in her voice. ‘My brotherling Skif is trying to decide between disturbing us and fainting from lack of air—’” (pg. 276)

“‘You know, I don’t think anyone ever really realized how many lives she’s touched until we thought we’d lost her.’” (pg. 279)

“‘We lost more than a friend when we lost him,’ she said, hesitating over the words. ‘I think—I think we lost a part of ourselves.’” (pg. 289)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: This was an amazing book to end the story with. It made me laugh, cry, and be happy all at once. The character development was at its peak, and I loved how the plot came together at the end. I’m happy that Talia finally got her happiness. The extra tid-bits including the songs at the end of the book were really fascinating, too! I just... I just loved this series so much! That’s all there is to say! :P The musical CD that accompanies this book is aptly named and coincides with the book wonderfully -- "Lovers, Lore, and Loss". 

Rating: 5/5