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Arrow's Fall (1988)

Arrow's Fall (1988)
4.17 of 5 Votes: 5
0886774004 (ISBN13: 9780886774004)
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Arrow's Fall (1988)
Arrow's Fall (1988)

About book: Recently, I was talking to Hubby about preferred reading order. A series as prolific as Valdemar certainly has a timeline, but there are a number of reasons to read the books in publication order. Not the least of which being that, well... in chronological order, the somewhat clumsy and overly earnest first books might not show so well after reading thirteen of the later books.I don't mean that as a censure, either. Sure, the first book has a Mary Sue main character, and the plot reflects that almost painfully, but the writing is remarkably sound for all that, Lackey juggled a lot of characters, and the story is good. (especially once the plot gets past the point where I was convinced Talia was actually living in an escapist daydream) And more to the point, the books mostly get better with each one, which is a gold standard of improvement (and more than you can ask of some writers).After the travel story of the last book, Talia arrives home, ready to claim her full status as a Herald and Queen's Own. A political situation is already waiting for her attention. The neighbouring king of... um, the neighbouring kingdom, has offered his son Ancar in betrothal to Elspeth, the Heir and former Brat. The overall mood from those Talia trusts is that the pros of this betrothal are too good to be true, which is not helped by the fact that her old kind-of nemesis Orthallen is just about drooling for this alliance.Talia and Queen Selenay go with their instincts and postpone the alliance, but Orthallen basically sets out on a campaign to discredit Talia. Underhanded, subtle things, like constantly calling attention to her youth, and undermining her advice and opinions. Worse, whenever she goes to Kris with this problem, he defends his uncle so hard that I thought he'd been bewitched or something. (I was pretty disappointed that he wasn't, because it made Kris look like a tool)To make sure that her personal life is also a source of stress, she struggles with her feelings for Dirk. I... basically hated the romantic... stuff. I can't really call it a subplot. They almost literally spend no time together. I could have taken the lifebond/love at first sight thing, if it weren't for everything else. I actually liked Dirk before. In this book, he's a drunk moron. The idea is that he thinks Talia is in love with Kris, his best friend ever, so he doesn't want to fight over the girl with him. And Dirk doesn't just get his ass out of the bottle and ask Talia how she feels because he's afraid she'll choose Kris.My problem with that is that for 80-90% of the book, Dirk is drinking alone and feeling sorry for himself. Otherwise, the book just doesn't bother with him. Kris doesn't disillusion him, so that's a great friend. Talia doesn't act on her own apparently agonising attraction, but that's more understanding, given the crap already on her plate.Things come to a head when Orthallen's scheming brings Elspeth close to disgracing herself. Talia has a glorious blow-up at Elspeth. Harsh words are said on both sides, and they both feel guilty afterwards, but honestly, I don't remember feeling like Talia had gone too far, or that she was even wrong. Anyway, soon after the fight, Talia and Kris are sent ahead as an envoy to check out the prince before the queen and her official party. Only a week or two ahead, though.It will surprise no one that they find out that Prince Ancar is Bad News. Quickly, though with difficulty. By the time they are sure he's the worst, they're neck deep in it. Seriously. Shit gets real blindingly fast, and things escalate so high and so fast that some readers would call it too much and maybe even DNF. Trigger warning.The least of it is that Talia is captured. She conducts herself well, but the awful things that happen to her are hard to take. It may have been in keeping with the villain's character and MO, so not out of nowhere. But still. The villain is only identified around the eighth chapter (of I think twelve and an epilogue?) and Talia as a character--to me--calls for a shiny rescue in the nick of time. Not (view spoiler)[when she's been gang-raped, tortured for days, and right after she took something to kill herself. (hide spoiler)]

Setting/World Building: 4/5. Main Character: 4/5Other Characters: 3/5. Kind of disappointed by the lack of depth to the villains.Plot: 2/5Writing: 2/5Triggering/Issues: 2/5. Character death, but even worse, rape followed by torture (of the sexual sadist variety). Also triggering is the way the aftermath is handled (or rather, the way it isn't really handled at all). AVERAGED TOTAL: 3.1 out of 5, rounded to 3. 2.8 out of 5, rounded down to 2, after a few days had passed and I was still mad.Oh, how this book disappointed me. I think one of the worst parts about this book is that it HAD all the makings of what could have been a great book. The previous two set up Talia coming into her own, and I thought here we were going to get the sort of climax, the real big test of her powers and strengths. There were political machinations and tensions between two realms, and in my head I could see it building into this epic battle where Talia has to use her powers to help them all save the day. But instead... Instead the book hit me with three whammies in a row and then it was all downhill from there.So what happened? Well it all started with... (view spoiler)[Kris' death. That hit as hard as it should have, but I was okay with it, I was. Sometimes, the good people have to die and I think it's important to show that. But then, literally a page or two later, Talia gets captured, stripped, raped, beaten, thrown into a cell. She's then tortured by the 'baddies' of the book (who were unfortunately very one-dimensional so far), who of course are sexual sadists who get off on torturing her, which feels to her (in her own words) like being raped all over again.And it never gets better, it really is all downhill from there. As I was reading it, I thought, the only way this could be salvaged is if it was at least used. If Talia used it to harden, to become stronger, maybe to try and get her revenge and go to the brink of going overboard, like they'd hinted she had been in the past, only to stop herself and be the better person, etc etc. But none of that happened. In fact, Talia is bafflingly barely present in the second half of the book. She's rescued by Dirk, who "fetches" her using his magic. After that, literally all she does is tell people what happened and get healed. This massive battle passes with her only influence being helping link some people together so they can kill a mage. I mean sure, she's there, but she's not there in the way she should be. These are Talia's books! It should be about her coming full circle and becoming the person she was Chosen to be! In the end, the "drama" over the enemy isn't even wrapped up. I assume that's to carry over into the next trio of books but frankly, it seemed kind of half-assed, like she just cut them off so she could end with the wedding.Even worse, the rape and it's effects on her are literally never handled. She off-handledly mentions to Skif once that being touched by men affects her, and then literally two pages later it's a week or so later and poof, she's magically mind-healed and fine with getting married and having sex with her husband, tra la la. Compared to how the author at least tactfully handled Talia's issues with abusive men in the first book, I was SO disappointed by how it was handled in this one. It was so pointless, so why did she even need to get raped to begin with? It didn't affect anything, it didn't do anything, it was another case of someone pointlessly using rape as some way of getting across how "horrifyingly evil" the villain is, and then just sweeping it under the rug! (hide spoiler)]
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Arrow's Fall is a stronger book than Arrow's Flight but nowhere near as good as Arrows of the Queen; I debated for a while between giving this two or three stars, but considering I gave the middle book a two, I think this one deserves a weak three. (I really wish Goodreads at half-star ratings because I thought about this for far too long.) The first third of Arrow's Fall is, basically, an angst-fest; there are some political machinations going on, but the focus is mostly on Talia and her relationships with Elspeth, Dirk, and Kris. I thought the former was well done; I've always liked Talia and Elspeth's characters and their relationship, and I thought the conflict was well-handled. Talia and Kris's argument over Orthallen didn't pull too much focus, but that, too, felt realistic and fitting with their previously established characters. The "romantic" conflict with Dirk and Kris was, comparatively, frustrating beyond belief. My issue with the Dirk and Kris affair is that there wasn't actually any conflict; what conflict the characters perceive could easily have been sorted by actually talking with one another and so the amount of attention this received felt disproportionate and unnecessary. On that point, I really disliked how the relationship between Dirk and Talia was handled. When their affection and later, their lifebond, was implied in Arrow's Flight I was excited - what I saw of Dirk was likable, and I loved the idea of the fantasy heroine going for personality over looks. I assumed their relationship would develop and grow over the course of Arrow's Fall but instead, they both brood and (view spoiler)[eventually end up married, when it seems they don't really know one another at all. The majority of Dirk's characterization is communicated by Kris in Arrow's Flight,and I would much rather have seen Talia learn who he is by actually talking to him. I'm always down for a good romance, but it felt like Talia and Dirk were drawn together by their lifebond and didn't bother getting to love one another beyond that; while people had a tendency, throughout the series, to latch quickly onto Talia, I never felt the other relationships were as poorly done as this one. (hide spoiler)]
Lisa (Harmonybites)
This is the conclusion to Arrows of the Queen and Arrows Flight, which should be read first. I think this is a satisfying resolution to all the threads established in the first books. I like how Talia grew through all three novels and Lackey certainly made me feel for her characters. Well, the ones on the "good" side. This author's and series greatest flaw is arguably that she creates a very black and white world, with villains in the twirl-the-mustache mold, and this is no exception. Combined with the appealing characters, I loved the magical world Lackey created--a group of heroes of various backgrounds drawn together because they are the chosen of their companions--magical horses who are their full partners. What teenage girl wouldn't be enthralled by such a world? But I still enjoyed rereading this even as an adult: a good escapist read.
Probably my favourite of the trilogy. Emotional but well-written. Ties up most of the loose ends nicely. I always forget about the middle part though, probably because I mix it up with when they visit Hardorn in the later books. The ending is super sweet, but I don't mind because by that time Lackey has me in her thrall.It's cute to come back to this original trilogy after reading all the other novels and see where she started from and how things don't quite mesh, but you ignore it anyway for the sake of the story.
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