Jackie @ Death By Tsundoku and I are now on our 9th book for #ReadingValdemar. We have not stopped, we have not faltered; we, in short, are killing it. Currently, we are on THE MAGE WINDS trilogy and are grateful to those of you following along. Today’s review is of Winds of Change, the second book in the trilogy. We last left off with Princess Elspeth of Valdemar in a tribe’s vale with Darkwind, who has decided he will use his mage gift again and teach Elspeth to use hers so she can better defend Valdemar. They think the villain, Mornelithe Falconsbane, is dead.
Characterization is hit or miss in Winds of Change. While women are distinguishable and unique, male characters blend together. I confused Skif for Darkwind for several pages when I let my brain relax a little, and their backstories are nothing alike: a former street thief who is now a herald vs. a tribal person who has never been in a city and has a mage gift. Because Skif has a unique background from other heralds in THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR trilogy, I missed his unique playfulness while fighting and proficiency at sneaking around in Winds of Change. There were other pairs of men I confused, too. The only male completely his own was Firesong, a peacockish, yet unbelievably talented, person who is creative with his gifts.
Poor male characterization is forgiven because Lackey adds many new things to her universe. Readers get more information about evil mages and where Falconsbane (and possibly others like him) comes from. We learn how tribes were scattered and split up after a huge Mage War thousands of years ago that still affect the tribes today. The place called Pelagir Hills by everyone in Valdemar is called The Uncleansed Lands by tribes people because there is blood magic in the ground left over from the Mage War that mutates animals on those lands. The tribes collect and tame the magic to make it clean again. The more information a reader has, the more she feels like part of an exclusive Lackey club.
Although I complained that two women in Winds of Fate were boiled down to sex objects, all women in this novel grow and further separate themselves as individuals, even in romantic relationships with men. Darkwind acknowledges that what he tries to teach Elspeth with her mage gift isn’t working when he sees her train with a female gryphon. In that moment, Darkwind realizes that Elspeth’s ruler is her queen mother, her Companion is a female, and her armsmaster is female. There are ways he will not connect with Elspeth in which a woman can. Nice!
Even though Nyara grows as a woman because she is away from her slave master, she must contend with Skif, who has fallen in love with her after one sexual encounter. Lame, Ms. Lackey. Twice, Nyara is under the male gaze when Skif notes that she seems less sexual, a trait created in her by her slave master that she must unlearn. Instead of being happy that she is healing, he finds her “fascinating.” As if his feelings about her are the focus of her wholeness. While Nyara grows in confidence and strength, Skif believes it makes her “all the more beautiful.” Perhaps Lackey felt that a man viewing strength as beautiful would make it fine, but Skif has turned Nyara’s personal development into something that connects to him. He makes his opinions the center of her story. His pursuit of Nyara despite her running away seems desperate, and possessive.
To soothe my frustration, Lackey gives me Elspeth and Darkwind discussing how people court each other in their own cultures, signaling their interesting in one another in a natural way that isn’t forced love or lust, or possession. It was nice to see adults talk about their feelings and then act on them in a responsible way, noting differences from expectation and reality and accommodating each other sexually and emotionally nonetheless.
The novel ends leaning forward — that is, not on a cliffhanger and not resolved — which makes me excited to read the final novel in THE MAGE WINDS TRILOGY. I hope Lackey has done something about Skif, who appears to be at the root of most of my problems with Winds of Change.
Are you following along with #ReadingValdemar? Do you have a new or old post about Winds of Change? Add your URL to enter our June giveaway! *open to national and international bloggers.