Time to return to the Great Valdemar Reread! I’ve left this project alone for a while now, but it’s time to take a step back into my favourite fantasy world and get back to reviewing those books.
Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) It has been four years since Darian saw his village sacked and burned by barbarians. Taking refuge with the Hawkbrothers, he soon finds his life’s calling–as a Healing Adept. But even as he learns the mystical ways of this ancient race, Darian cannot escape the dangers threatening his future. Another tribe of barbarians is approaching. The time has come… to stand up and fight.
Thoughts: While the previous book in this trilogy, Owlflight, centered almost completely around Darian and his adoption by the Tayledras, this book splits its time evenly between Darian (now a few years older and a good bit more mature than we last saw him) and Keisha, the resident Healer of Errold’s Grove. While both viewpoints are interesting and allow us to get a much more complete feel of the situation than before (maturity can do that to a person), it was Keisha’sections of the story that primarily interested me. Darian’s stuff was interesting, to be certain, but until Darian actually meets Keisha and the two stories start to twine together, his point of view mostly consisted of life in the Vale.
Keisha’s sections of the story, however, were told from the perspective of somebody who is increasingly self-reliant, talented, and trying to find her place in the world, all while being hampered by an overprotective family and only a sketchy idea of a big part of her own vocation. Being empathic, she’s removing herself little by little from society while still trying to be nearby to help tend the hurts and illnesses of an entire village. It’s easy to feel both empathy and sympathy for her. Let’s face it; how many outcasts feel like they’ve been in a very smilar situation? Keisha was clearly meant to be this book’s misfit. Previously it was Darian, but since he went off with the Hawkbrothers and grew up some, he could no longer fill that role.
Like many Lackey novels, this book takes a long time to get going, with a great deal of build-up, character development, repetition, and characters just generally living life. Until the halfway point comes, and the big threat is introduced, and then there’s more build-up until the final confrontation shortly before the end. I’m not saying this is good storytelling, as a general rule, but Lackey has this knack of making it work. You get so caught up in the characters that very often you don’t realize that nothing exiting is happening, because one person’s life is already interesting enough. I think this method works for her because she tends to write about extraordinary people. Doing a story this way when your main characters are farmhands would have people putting the book down very quickly. But when you’ve got stories about Heralds, Healers, Bards, mythical cultures coming out of the woods, then you can afford to get away with slow build-ups because even the every-day lives of these people are worth talking about.
As such, this isn’t a book that’s heavy on the action. Even less so than many of the Valdemar novels, really. The big threat at the end turns out not to be another invading army of barbarians but a disease. Certainly one that’s threatning, and very dangerous if it spreads from the northern trbes into Valdemar, but the final conflict is between Keisha and the disease raging inside a young boy’s body, with her sister (Chosen to be a Herald in the opening scenes of the novel, and quite amusingly so!) and Darian providing backup support. It was an interesting twist, because as much as he moment was tense and filled with energy and emotion, it was relatively action-free. No big physical battle, no death or blood or anything of the sort.
Also, I confess to a moment of fangirlish squee when Firesong is brought into the picture. I don’t know what it is about him and Vanyel, but whenever either of those two are on the pages, it’s like my ears perk up and I have to keep reading. They’re both wonderful characters, and they add a wonderful touch of humour and depth to any story they’re placed in, and so Firesong’s appearance was definitely welcome.
This story is a fantastic continuation to the initial coming-of-age story told in the previous book of the trilogy. Seeing Darian’s maturity and sense of self-worth and place in the world was a good follow-up to is earlier struggle, and Keisha’s similar-but-different struggle was an echo of what so many of us have gone through in our lives that it was hard not to relate to them in some way. Between that aspect and the increasing exploration of Tayledras culture, this book is one that I, at least, really enjoyed reading and will probably always have a place on my bookshelves.