author: Mercedes Lackey
series: Heralds of Valdemar #3
published: 1 January 1988
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With Elspeth, the heir to the throne of Valdemar, now of marriageable age, Talia, the Queen's Own Herald, returns to court. Here, she finds the 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 Queento 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.
Talia is what a strong woman in fantasy should be, not necessarily physically strong but mentally and emotionally strong. She has the ability to see her own way through obstacles without depending on someone to swoop in and save her. This isn’t to say that she doesn’t ask or accept help, but she does for herself just as much. And she has the strength of character to always care about those around her, even if her own world is falling apart. That is a lovely aspect to her characterization.
But the romance in this one did annoy me a little, more than even the last book. There just isn’t very much to show me that Dirk and Talia are fated to be together, other than simply being told that. For much of the trilogy, the two are not together in any way, and the percieved love triangle seemed odd. The entire thing could have been solved with a conversation, and it was weird to me that that conversation never happened. Kris and Dirk are best friends, Kris and Talia are mentor/mentee. Seems like it’s a topic that should have come up organically. Instead, Kris spent a lot of time being rather arrogant, Talia too shy, and Dirk being too self-absorbed.
Aside from that, I can’t help but love the world of Valdemar, and to love the story.