The OWL MAGE trilogy follows Darian, who was orphaned as a tween and lived with a sub-par healer wizard named Justyn. That is, until barbarians invaded Errold’s Grove and Justyn sacrificed himself to save the slow citizens trying to escape, including the elderly, children, and those with disabilities. Darian is pursed through the forest by some barbarians and is rescued by Snowfire, who takes Darian to his Hawkbrother vale to live and develop his mage gifts.
In Owlsight, it is four years later. Darian has trained with his bond bird (a giant owl) and has become a strong member of the vale. The goal is to create a new vale near Darian’s old village in Valdemar so he can be a bridge between Valdemarans and Hawkbrothers, continuing the ally protection this fantasy series has been building in previous books.
While readers continue to follow Darian in Owlsight, we get a second narrator, eighteen-year-old Keisha, who now functions as the healer in Errold’s Grove. She trained briefly with a healer at a nearby keep, and he checks on her, but she’s refused to go to Valdemar’s capitol to train at the collegium. There’s no one to replace her during her studies, so it’s worth it to work half-trained instead of leaving villagers with no medical attention.
I’ve complained in previous reviews that the characters either didn’t seem like real people or they seemed too much alike. In this case, Lackey and Dixon give each character unique traits. I could tell each Hawkbrother and villager apart thanks to more detailed personalities. For me, those details brings the novel to life and I was able to immerse myself more fully and care about the safety, happiness, and well-being of each person.
I especially enjoyed watching Snowfire and Nightwind navigate their wedding, marital issues, and dreams of expanding their family. Even the non-human characters, such as the hertasi (large lizards that walk on their back legs; I picture the GEICO gecko) and dyheli (mindspeaking gazelle-like creatures) were described more clearly with how they move, gesture, smile, how their bodies look, etc. Kelvren, the attention-seeking, playful griffon who loves scritches is sure to put a smile on your face!
Lackey and Dixon create the best villain yet, in my opinion: lack of information. A huge group is moving toward the village, but they have women, children, and disabled people with them, suggesting this isn’t another barbarian raid. However, there are tons of weapons, too. What do they want? Will they keep moving or settle peaceably? When readers meet these mysterious travelers, things become scarier than anything sadistic Lackey has written in the past. I won’t spoil it for you.
But the healers that have arrived with a small army, called to fortify the Hawkbrothers in case there is a war, are a big part of the debate about the travelers. Their oath tells them they must assist everyone, no matter whose side they are on. Could these people use medical attention, especially those who look newly disabled or like they’re wasting away? Any contact with an unknown group exposes both the Valdemaran village, still recovering from the raid four years ago, and the Hawkbrother vale, which usually is a secret.
What I enjoyed best overall was the way Lackey and Dixon wrote a plot and characters relatable to actual life. Yes, fantasy is escapist, but if there is no connection to the feelings or realities of the reader, it’s hard to get lost in the story. A novel that heightens the trilogy instead of suffering the sophomore slump, Owlsight is an excellent addition to #ReadingValdemar.
Are you following along with #ReadingValdemar? Be sure to add your post links to enter for a free copy of the EXILES OF VALDEMAR omnibus. Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. See schedule below.