Man, I always forget how much MLackey boned herself in trying to keep how Valdemar deals with "real magic" straight. Reading these books again after years of re-reading the Oath/Kerowyn books is kind of jarring. Anyway.
I am constantly amazed by Talia's ability to fall just on the right side of likable for how mary-sueish she is. It's a real strength of Lackey's writing. The slightly purple prose and the characters' occasional slide into archaic dialect-- less so. Also, I'm p. sure she never brings that back, just saying.