Is Kerowyn incompetent? Consider the following two cases:
When Kerowyn meets the travelers on their return, she demands that they tell everything that happened to Elspeth, Need, and Skif. It takes the entire morning to tell their story. Mornelithe Falconsbane was the Big Bad of the story, and would have been described to some detail. Afterwards, Kerowyn tells about the situation with Haldorn, and tells about the new mage who has appeared in Ancar's court — one who looks half-cat and calls himself "Falcon's Breath, Falcon's Death, or something like that." Kerowyn's eyebrows raise at the varied but unanimous reaction.
Of course the Doylist perspective is simply that Mercedes Lackey inadvertently wrote a plot hole that was never caught before publication.
Besides, they all have a marked tendency to dislike talking about Falconsbane or even saying his name — they could easily have said "evil mage" the whole time and left it at that. After all, they all presumed he was dead or as good as.
Darkwind and Firesong in particular refer to Falconsbane only as "The Beast" throughout that conversation.
In Storm Warning, assassination is attempted through flying knives hidden in the walls of various rooms. They have no idea who did it until Karal, whose mentor died in the attacks and who was supposed to die himself, makes himself a target to flush out the assassin. The assassin turns out to be a man who typically faded in the background, usually unnoticed and typically forgotten, but who was a major artist and person called upon to repair or alter walls. Standard investigation would have identified him as one with access, and made him a suspect for investigators to investigate.
Kerowyn's a mercenary captain, not an investigator. The rest of the Heraldic College may safely be blamed for idiocy, though, since investigation is one of their primary jobs.
The suspect pool was explicitly stated to be "Everybody in the Imperial Palace except the servants". The problem is that too many people had access to those locations, especially since the traps had been potentially laid up to a year before. Who can possibly remember every person who went into every room in the palace a year ago, if they weren't specifically recording that information at the time?
The issue is far more than just access. Someone who was called upon to install fixtures, open up walls, and so forth, would be among the first to be noted as possible suspects. Then identify where the "birdies" actually appeared from, what equipment was there, etc.
The traps are installed magically; carpentry tools and suchlike aren't required. So, the suspect list isn't just the maintenance staff, its literally everyone who has been alone in the affected rooms for any length of time in the past year. And the actual assassin wasn't someone who installed fixtures; he was a portrait painter, who went around the Court doing sketches of people (much like the White House photographer today, only with a brush).
When Talia is first picked up by her "Companion" and spirited off towards the castle, she has no idea what is happening. Whenever she tries to get answers out of any of the people on her stops along the way, they cheerily claim that it is illegal to try to explain to her what is happening, lest she get bad information and become confused, or something. When she finally does meet the queen and gets a rundown of what we in the audience have seen as obvious for what feels like an eternity now, the queen is surprised and outraged that the concept of "Companion's choice" was never explained to her. Even though this is the person who apparently made it illegal to explain the obvious to idiots, she clearly aims to have quite the harsh talking-to with the big, mean peasants back in Talia's homeland.
I've just re-read the chapters in question. Only one person - the female Roadguard in the second town - claims that she can't tell Talia what's going on, and what she says is not that it's illegal but that it's "against the rules," which is not necessarily the same thing. Also, while Dirk is (briefly) surprised that Talia doesn't know what's going on, Selenay absolutely is not; she's startled only when Talia begs forgiveness for wanting to be a Herald, and she gives no indication that she's upset with anyone Talia met on her journey for not explaining the situation.
It's strongly implied in the same novel that children in the Kingdom are supposed to be taught about Heralds and Companions — the fact that the Holderkin don't is a sign that they are a backward, isolationist, prejudiced bunch. As for the rest, it's like the difference between knowing what police officers are and knowing how to become a police officer. If all police were people who had been selected by sentient police cars in their early teens, it would make sense for others to say "we'll help you, but you need to wait until you get to the station to explain everything — the car knows what to do, and if we try to explain now it would only make you feel more overwhelmed."
There is another reason for making it a rule that you can't tell the kids on the way to Haven about what Heralds are and what they do; it keeps the kids' heads from being filled with all kinds of hearsay and gossip and misinformation from people who've never been near the Collegium in their life and are going off of old wives' tales. And yes, as mentioned above, the people who made that rule never allowed for the possibility that an inductee would never have been told about Companion's Choice at all; its not something that happens that often. And there is a mention after Talia's case comes up to Selenay about 'Perhaps we should change the rules to make it easier on the next case like this'.
So, overall, what they're trying to do is to make people wait to have the proper discussion we see with Teren in Orientation, rather than have it all happen in a more confused fashion. (And it's not just the Roadguard, Dirk says the same).
What happened to Heraldic arrow-code? It was plot-critical in the "Arrows trilogy" and has never come up again. Lackey seems to have similarly dropped the "some Heralds can't Mindspeak with their Companions" hook — now arrow-code seems to be redundant since the Companions can send messages to each other.
The Arrows trilogy was one of the first Valdemar books published. It's possible that the 'rules' of the world weren't quite worked out all the way by then.
No reason Jadus couldn't have been a bodyguard in his 50s or so. Heralds keep themselves in top physical condition.
For that matter, how old is Selenay by the time she meets Prince Daren?
Considering that she was around twenty when she married the first time and Elspeth was in her early twenties at the end of By the Sword, Selenay would have to be in her early to mid forties.
Which explains the twins; the longer a woman goes between pregnancies (or before having children, period) the higher the chance of multiples.
This is a bit of fridge horror that comes from reading the entire series of novels for the umpteenth time. In Magic's Promise, part of the Last Herald Mage trilogy, under the city of Highjorune an unstable fault, and a hole punched down to the core of the planet, being held together by a heartstone's spell, which was powered by a powerful node of magic. The horror comes into play at the end of the Mage Storms series, and the beginning of the Owl Knight series; In order to avert a second cataclysm, all the magic was channeled into the void, and spread out evenly across the world. No more nodes. So, what happened to Highjorune and the surrounding area, without any power to the spell holding it together?
By that point, the wound had probably healed enough that the stone was no longer necessary.
Agreed. The spell was supposed to slowly heal the fault and the hole over time—after several hundred years (the time between Last Herald Mage and Mage Storms) the fault would have healed.
In Magic's Promise, Vanyel is speaking with Yfandes about Randale's coronation, and about his fears with Shavri being chosen by Taver, specifically why Taver chose a Healer, and his (correct) guess that Randale's sterility is a sign of a worse disease to come. He confesses to Yfandes that he was worried Rolan would choose him. How? Vanyel is already Chosen by Yfandes. Would he have two Companions? Would Yfandes have to repudiate Vanyel and damage him similarly to how Tylendel was damaged by Gala, then have Vanyel go through what Talamir went through when Taver died? Would Yfandes die? Or would it be like in the end of the first Exiles book, with Vanyel acting as King's Own unofficially despite not having been Chosen by the King's Own Companion?
It's established that the Monarch's Own's companion can and often does choose someone who is already a Herald. IIRC, the previous companion would turn out to have only had a temporary bond to the Herald in question
What is the overlap between By The Sword and the Exile Duology? I've been trying to work out the bit where Karathanelan of Rethwallan is killed while trying to control Selenay (later his death is explained as a hunting accident to ease his brother Faramentha in Valor. His father has been dead some time) versus By the Sword - Karathanelan dies, and it is known immediately what he did and his father dies of heart failure by this shock and his brother Faramentha becomes king.
It's a Retcon. By the Sword was one of the earlier books, while the Exile Duology is more recent.