I spent the new year rereading that classic work of modern literature, Mercedes Lackey's Arrows of the Queen
series. I would like to blame this on genarti
, whose Valdemar fic I betaed for Yuletide, but in fact I think I ended up rereading more Valdemar than she did, so...uh. ANYWAY.
These books are notable for basically being the platonic ideal of sparkly wish fulfillment, heavily tempered with over-the-top angst. Our Heroine Talia is raised in a sexist, abusive family within a sexist, abusive subculture; then a sparkly magical horse comes to find her and soulbond with her and tell her that not only is she one of the magically special destined heroes known as Heralds, she is in fact the most magically special Herald there is.
But not just that! The plot of the whole first book is pretty much just this conversation repeated over and over again:
TALIA: Wow, I feel so alone and so isolated and so much like a failure and I don't talk to anybody about my real feelings because I'm so afraid of rejection. D:
OTHER CHARACTER: Talia, you know, it's so weird, but you're so kind and understanding and patient and empathic and wise beyond your years, I just feel like we're SOUL-FRIENDS, like HEART-SIBLINGS, like you understand me better than EVERYONE ELSE I KNOW. I realize we met last month. AND YET.
TALIA: ...I'm not one hundred percent sure how this happened, given that I spend pretty much all my time not opening up to people, but cool, sure!
In her free time Talia is almost murdered and is rescued by all the people who now love her, and embarks on some politically significant babysitting. And I will say, now that I am older, I appreciate a lot more how all of Talia's very domestic skills -- babysitting! sewing! doing chores! earnestly listening to people's problems! -- are given the same heroic narrative weight as dramatic battle scenes and so on.
...that said, who can forget the heroic and emotional climax of Arrows of the Queen?
KEREN, TALIA'S LESBIAN BEST FRIEND: The love of my life has been killed and now I'm emotionally unstable and suicidally depressed!
THE HERALDS: Talia! What do we do?
TALIA: With my magic emotional powers, I sense that ... we must ... QUICK, THROW ANOTHER LESBIAN AT HER!
So Talia finds the only other lesbian in the books and basically chucks her at Keren and saves the day, thus proving that any problem can be solved if you throw enough lesbians at it.
(But, I mean, that is always sort of how trauma works in the books -- it lasts for exactly long enough to milk the maximum level of angst out of it, but as soon as it's no longer narratively convenient, it's GONE LIKE THE WIND. See also: Talia's magically disappearing PTSD at the end of the third book.)
Then comes the second book, which is basically the story of Talia's extended magical depressive spiral on tour around Valdemar with her mentor, Super Sexy Kris. At the end of the book Talia has a SOUL-FRIENDS-with-benefits relationship with Super Sexy Kris and better self-esteem, which is good, because hoo boy, if you thought Arrow's Flight
was an angst vortex, wait until Arrow's Fall!Arrow's Fall
is half about Talia's relationship drama with Kris' best friend, Less Sexy Outside But More Than Angsty Enough To Be Sexy Anyways Dirk. Talia and Dirk have spoken about three times total, but they can't stop thinking about each other and everybody knows they'll be in magical lifebonded love if they ever actually manage to have another conversation.
ALAS, then this happens:
KRIS: Dirk and Talia, sitting in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!
DIRK: So hey buddy, did you and Talia ever ...
KRIS: Sure we did! We're good friends, it was no big! But anyway, about the fact that you and Talia should TOTALLY get married --
DIRK: omg Talia loves Kris omg Kris loves Talia omg Kris is so much hotter than me too omg how can I stand in his way I want him to be happy but I also want Talia to love me I'M BEING TORN APAAAAAAAART
And so Dirk spends most of the first half of the book angsting, pining, boozing, and running away from Talia or Kris when they try talk to him like a normal human being. Neither Kris, who is Dirk's best friend and knows his issues better than anybody else, nor MAGICALLY EMPATHIC TALIA can figure out why this should be so, because if they did it would end the big misunderstanding and where would the plot be?
And then the second half of the book happens and Talia is being held captive in a really gratuitous torture dungeon, which, on the one hand, is annoying because I always feel like you should avoid having your protagonists gruesomely broken in gratuitous torture dungeons whenever possible, and on the other hand is annoying because the villains' evil plans as monologued to Talia make literally zero sense, but on the third hand, it's annoying because the sudden arrival of an EVEN BIGGER BOATLOAD OF ANGST works to resolve things without ANYBODY EVER SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER LIKE AN ADULT.
. . . oh, how I ate these books up. And let's be real: my inner twelve-year-old still does. HELL YEAH, Dirk and Talia have the sparkliest wedding!
The worst bit comes at the end, though, though, when all of a sudden you are ambushed by a twenty-page compilation of Mercedes Lackey's filk about everybody's feelings, which, amazingly, manages to be even more over-the-top than the novels themselves. Even as an eleven-year-old, I did pick up one important lesson from Mercedes Lackey: DON'T INCLUDE YOUR OWN POETRY OR FILK IN YOUR NOVEL. It will never work out well in the long run.