Owlsight by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon, part of #ReadingValdemar

This is a read along, so be sure to look for Jackie’s and other’s reviews!

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.

Reviews are posted one week late this month due to a library book taking forever to arrive.

20 comments

  1. Do you think Lackey was flagging and Dixon was brought in to liven things up? Series seem to be such big business. I’ve been reading (listening to) off and on, Dragon Riders of Pern – completely uncritically, I don’t have your discipline – and McCaffery occasionally brings in other writers, mostly her son.

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    • Jackie and I talked a bit about what Dixon’s role is, and we’re not totally sure. We know he’s done the artwork for Lackey since the beginning, but what does he contribute as a co-author? Perhaps he got her to make the characters less otherworldy and more human? Perhaps he helped her decide what a villain can be without include sadistic rape and torture? I’m not sure, but I wish I knew. Lackey is very private and doesn’t do a lot of interviews, so it’s hard to know.

      I browsed through the Wikipedia page on Dragonriders of Pern and have to say, it sounds like loads of fun. I have noticed many of the fantasy novels we have at the library where I work are huge series that slowly incorporate co-authors. I wonder if the main author just needs some perspective because she/he has been into the world for so long.

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      • Due to how distinct the voices of Darian and Keisha are, I feel like Dixon’s presence is more obvious in Owlsight. My hypothesis is that he is mostly Darian’s voice and Lackey holds all the other characters together. I still feel like the Hawkbrothers are often difficult to tell apart.

        Oooh, I love the Dragonriders of Pern. I’ve only read 5 books from the series, but they are a lot of fun. Thanks for reminding me of this series!

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  2. Funny you talk about lack of informations because the only other series I read that they collaborated on was the Mage Wars series and I felt it too. Even if I think they do a good job together I do think that the Valdemar they write is slightly different from the only Lackey one.

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  3. I love reading your reviews, Melanie. You are so positive! I agree that the lack of information is a fascinating Big Bad for Lackey to bring in. I just wish we had more of it. I feel like Lackey and Dixon got lost in the details of daily life and threw in the barbarians at the last minute. I would have preferred if we either didn’t have the barbarians at all (and thus focused on the establishment of k’Valdemar and building a relationship with Errold’s Grove) or if we had the barbarian plot come in earlier and last longer. I definitely could have read another 80-100 pages if we dug more into that plotline!

    Either way, I’m glad to read a more pastoral perspective of Valdemar. This is a really fun trilogy — I’m glad it’s how we’re wrapping up the year!

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    • I’m glad, too, and I think some other bloggers mentioned that they really liked this trilogy. I felt like the storyline of the barbarians made sense because Kelvren could locate and count them fast while flying, the healers debated for quite a while on what to do that would be ethically sound, and the night when the group goes to “make an impression” came off as pretty funny because the barbarians seemed started but not amused.

      I was fine without more about how they established k’Valdemar because we’ve learned about what other vales look like and what the people who live there prefer — plants, living in trees, pools of various temperatures (I’m SO tired of the word “pool”). Though I would like to know more about exactly how the hertasi created all this stuff! They aren’t magical that I know of.

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      • I wish I could see images in my head. I really struggled with the night they approached the barbarians. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. But I’m glad we got to see all that in Darian’s perspective. Speaking of — it was refreshing to ONLY have those two perspectives; Darian and Keisha. Fewer voices to keep track of! XD

        I’m not interested in the physical establishment of k’Valdemar just like you. We’ve already learned a lot about it’s creation. I mean more about establishing a proper embassy. How will they interact with Valdemar? What will happen to Errold’s Grove? etc. I want to know about what a true Hawkbrother embassy means for Valdemar.

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