[WIR, What Hath Gone Before] Arrow’s Fall
RPG.net link here.
In Which Talia Spends A Good Third Of The Book Faffing About Over The Retconned Love Interest’s Feelings Despite Being Hugely Telepathic, Among Other Telepaths, and Having Both Her And Him Regularly Mind-Scanned By QHATs; In Which Orthallen Rises and Falls, To Be Replaced With A Villain We Won’t Accidentally Sympathize With More Than The Super-Magical Fated-To-Always-Win Protagonist Team; In Which We See An Interesting If Uncomfortable Chapter In Which Choices In Previous Books Pay Off And Talia Suffers The Standard Heroine Romantic Fantasy Intermediate Act Fate, In Which The Book Carefully Reminds Us That Civil Wars In Magical Dictatorships Always Split Into Good Rebels Who Are On Our Side And Bad Loyalists What Murder And Rape All Day Long; In Which Talia, After Three Books, Finally Appears To Grow Up, Get Out Of Her Head A Bit, And Maybe Even Approach A Happily Ever After.
This is both the strongest and the weakest of the Arrows books. The macro-level plotting is the strongest; both the hero and villain factions are always working some angle and trying to do something, there’s a clear set of acts with their own narrative arcs in the book, and Talia the Ur-Sue finally starts to wonder about some of her actions, and by the end of the book, seems keen to pursue a relationship with Dirk that looks a lot more genuine then the nonsense about true love and soulbonds we got earlier.
On the minus side was basically everyone else, however. Talia’s “Wait, I’m not sure that, in the heat of outraged anger, blatantly abusing my position as super-telepath and then shouting at Elspeth was the morally-righteous thing to do there.” was followed immediately by every character in her vicinity stopping and taking time out to reassure her that yes, she was totally in the right. And while we got Orthallen at his twistiest and most cunning yet, we also had to replace him with Ancar, and we converted the mysterious old nurse Hulda, master infiltrator and manipulator, with just another random sorceress. And since the books pretty consistently make good flatly more powerful than evil, making her explicable, and replacing Orthallen with a straightforwardly evil mage-king, is just setting them up for defeat when the Forces of Good muster sufficient force.
And I do like the epilogue sequence, as I said. Talia’s recovering but not recovered from her ordeal, there is a war to fight that will be long and hard (even if we know how it will end from trope-power), and so we wind down the action of the trilogy, while leaving open more stories to come.
This trilogy was, for all its rough spots and the necessity of inferring things the author put in but didn’t intend to, an excellent introduction to the Valdemar books. I genuinely enjoyed reading it. This turned out to be a good thing, because I had the Vows books right after.