|Arrows of the Queen|
Date: 03 March, 1987 — $7.99 — Book
This is the first book of Lackey's Valdemar series, and the first one she wrote. In some ways, this shows; a conspiracy that is unmasked is done so in the most general of terms, while the focus seems to be entirely on the growing up of Talia, a young girl raised in an oppressive society whose being chosen as a Herald comes as a complete surprise to her, and as the fulfillment of a dream.
It's also a bit heavy-handed in spots, over-emphasizing the trait of Valdemar as a tolreant society, at least officially. Unofficially, Talia is in constant danger of her life, because she has been Chosen precisely because she has a hope of taming the Brat, the Queen's daughter... who cannot be Heir unless she is also Chosen. And the Choice is made by Companions, magical harse-like beings who don't pick people with nasty temperaments, because Heralds have to be the arbiters of justice.
If this sounds like a pre-teen's fantasy— magical horses with silver hooves and blue eyes!— you'd be right. They are a bit better than that premise might suggest, however... though occasionally I look at the cove art and think magical ponies with silver hooves and blue eyes! It's inescapable.
One thing that some people have an objection to is the early introduction of sexuality to Heralds. Fourteen and fifteen-year-olds are sometimes depicted as having sex or as wanting it (offpage, naturally; it's not hot & heavy), and there is at least one homosexual relationship revealed. (Lackey was lauded for her writing on the latter; at the time, there were almost no renditions of same-sex relationships that treated them with any sympathy.) My take on the business is that it is in keeping with the society of the time; when Talia runs away from her people it is at the age of thirteen, and they have told her it is time to get married. As little as a century ago it was not unheard of for fourteen-year-olds to be married and working on their first pregnancy... but it is worth warning about, and if such things disturb you, don't choose these books.