Winds of Fury by Mercedes Lackey #ReadingValdemar

Welcome to BOOK #10 in the 2019 plan to read 16 Valdemar novels by Mercedes Lackey! It’s been six months so far, meaning Jackie @ Death By Tsundoku and I are half-way done. Since many of you are not following along with this series, I’m going to give you a very brief synopsis and then my impressions while reading.

Winds of Fury is the last book in THE MAGE WINDS trilogy. The villain trying to destroy a native tribe has been captured by the villain trying to destroy the city of Valdemar. Will they team up? Our heroine, Elspeth, uses all of her resources — human and magical — and gathers her team to leave Valdemar and trek the distance to the city where all three main villains reside to kill them and end the reign of human, magical, and environmental destruction.

Mercedes Lackey needed an editor so badly, one who was strong enough to care about the product his/her/their publisher was selling. There were issues with continuity and perspective. For instance, in chapter 8, Darkwind and Firesong know that Ancar has been using magic without protecting himself. There’s no reason they would know what Ancar is doing. Chapter 9 opens with Falconsbane standing in the open window, hair-whipping around, but in previous chapters the shutters were closed and absolutely forbidden from being opened. Small potatoes in the grand scheme, I suppose.

Lackey would get in a pattern of doing the same annoying thing repeatedly. She used the word “bitch” about 20 times in the first chapter and then stops. In one four-page section, she had five winks — some of them simultaneously. I remember in the span of a few pages she wrote something like “it would take a [adjective like stronger or colder] person than [character] to [do a thing]” three or four times. Where did these writer tics come from, and why didn’t an discerning editor notice?

The writing was never amazing in any of the books, but it was embarrassingly poor in Winds of Fury. Amateur mistakes like “two royal twins” would set my hackles up. I refuse to forgive a narrator who allows a writer to use a “big word” and then define it in the next sentence. For example, “And Falconsbane was capricious. He could change his mind at any time.” Although Lackey thanks her entire publishing and editing team at the end of my copy of the Winds of Fury, I steamed over blatant garbage errors like this one: “But the birds had human eyes — eyes as black as night, but spangled with stars.” So, not human eyes at all, right??

My main beef with Winds of Fury was the sexual content. It started with Lackey’s use of the word “pleasure.” It could describe damn near anything, from smiling to raping a slave, having consensual sex to a villain being waited on by endless servants. One instance made me wonder if Lackey even thought about what she was writing:

“. . .at the first, they had tried to force one of the women-contortionists to give them pleasure…”

The words she’s looking for are “rape” or “sexual assault.” Rape isn’t about “pleasure,” it’s about power, and the fact that Lackey perverted the word “pleasure” so greatly infuriated me. After a while, the word started to sicken me, the way some people feel a deep aversion to the word “moist.”

Although there were some great plot points, such as Elsepth’s ring and Darkwind’s feather, and discovering An’desha, I was distracted to pieces by Lackey’s insistence on inserting sex or sexual assault into everything. As Elspeth’s team travel for their suicidal mission, they make sure the couples fit in regular sexual activity. Also, Firesong’s focus is not on their objective, but how long he’s been celibate, and wonders if it is appropriate to have sex with his friend’s husband.

This is juvenile, but it’s how I felt.

Even characters with histories of being sexually assaulted vigorously jump into physical relationships as a way to get over their rapes — and Lackey has a history of writing that line of reasoning. We saw it in Arrow’s Fall. I was left feeling rather gross, and none of the sexual situations in Winds of Fury served as an actual plot point.

The villains constantly use seduction (there’s another word I wanted to light on fire) to get their way. Imagine: “What if I get A to seduce B. . . or maybe B will seduce A first, and then they’ll both be seduced! Or I could hire a boy with a reputably big penis to seduce C, and then when he’s done, he can seduce me!” GAG. SO MUCH GAG.

This was the first Valdemar book that I was extremely disappointed in. I’m not sure if Lackey was getting famous and the books just kept coming without regard to quality, or if some poor publishing employee was too afraid to make comments to an author bringing in loads of money. But I do know I’m ready to move past THE MAGE WINDS trilogy and hope Lackey grew to be a more conscientious writer from one year to the next.

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24 comments

  1. I never read this trilogy and I be okay with that. Just yer list of problems with it made me noggin hurt. I think editors should be more agressive in fixing problems in books no matter how much money or fame the author has. Arrr!
    x The Captain

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    • I was thinking about this more, wondering how editorial teams work with folks like Stephen King. But to be honest, I’ve never seen a shabby story by King. He even has a book about how to write, called On Writing. And he’s just as prolific as Lackey. Then again, she was publishing through DAW, which isn’t a notoriously polished press, though they release many beloved works!

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  2. Ooh dear my… I am without words. Literally. Because now I’m having second thoughts about joining the RAL… I had NO IDEA she did that in her stories. Then again, I’ve always felt both curious and confounded about how to read her stories – maybe I had a sixth sense about them, I don’t know. I was going to start gathering the books as you suggested but after reading this post… gosh. I just don’t know anymore… I’ll see if I can DM you.

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      • I’m taking everything into consideration you’ve kindly shared with me – between here and our private DM. I’m looking up this trilogy and the SA title as well. Perhaps that would be a better place for me to begin… I appreciate your kind help and I am still hoping to find a ‘place’ for me within this series so I can begin discussing it with you both.

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        • Based on what I’ve read from other readers on the internet, The “Oath” books and By the Sword are just THE best. Jackie and I will get to those in 2020, but they may be a fun place to just jump in if you would like.

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  3. I’m very glad I decided not to join this readalong until later in the year (these earlier books aren’t available in my library). A good editor is so crucial in a book – I have just been reading one of the later Miss Marple books, written when Christie was pretty old, and I was struck by how often she repeats words and phrases. A decent editor would have caught it, but I guess she was so successful by then that they weren’t worrying about it – do you think the same thing is going on here?

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    • I think perhaps editors feel that a selling author is a good deal, and to edit too heavily may be to mess with that author’s style. Sometimes it’s about hitting deadlines — Lackey publishes at least one book per year. However, when the book is re-released in an omnibus, like mine are, I don’t know why they haven’t been edited since the initial release. It sounds to me like a good place to jump in with #ReadingValdemar is with the Darian’s Tale trilogy or first thing in 2020. Jackie and I are going back chronologically!

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  4. Your gif made my eye twitch, I had to get it off the screen. Editing errors are annoying and all too common. And so are writers who like big words but have to write down to the perceived level of their readership. Some ‘popular’ authors seem to do sex by numbers, ok we’ve done 100 pages someone had better get lucky. And describing rape as sex is unforgiveable. Will never read these books but thoroughly enjoy your commentary.

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    • Thanks for reading along, Bill. I’m really looking forward to the books Jackie and I are going to read in 2020. They go way back chronologically to a big mage war and how the collegium to train heralds was started.

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  5. I actually remember not reading the last book in that trilogy because I was getting tired with Elspeth. But the sexual things happens also in Mage Wars but in this case rape is clearly said as such and described in a very disturbing way so that you don’t misunderstand it with pleasure. And it was written right after this one. I really don’t know what happened in this book… The fact that her writing can be slow and repetitive is a given in most of her books they are not really action packed and tends to be more descriptive but I do admit that sometimes it is too much…

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    • In Winds of Fury, the same team that worked together in Winds of Change go on to defeat Ancar and Falconsbane. I mean, really, that’s all that happens. You do meet An’desha, the young boy who had the body Falconsbane took over (he’s living in the far corner of the mage’s mind). I think Firesong and An’desha end up together romantically (with no reason or build up other than they are both gay). Really, there isn’t much to miss!

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  6. Hmm… this is one of the books I have and this trilogy does not sound appealing at all!
    You mention the “writer tics” that you noticed, and do you think you noticed them more because you are so familiar with Lackey’s writing because you’ve been reading so much of her work back-to-back, or just because this particular book was so poorly edited?
    Noticing the “writer tics” as you put it is one reason I do not like to read the same author back-to-back. I find myself noticing the phrases they repeatedly use whereas if I switch my authors up I don’t notice it as much.

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    • I notice them because it’s something that was once discussed in one of my creative writing classes when I was an undergrad, and it’s a bit of information that I latched onto and kept with me. Overall, I enjoyed the characters and think the trilogy was worth the read, I just thought that the villain was badly done. Thankfully, most of the the trilogy focuses on Elspeth and Darkwind, both of whom I liked as characters.

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