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

Fellow fantasy lovers, this is the last book of #ReadingValdemar for 2019! #CELEBRATE! Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku and I did it! Neither of us dropped out or got dramatically behind. We hit every. single. post. Our quest completed in a mighty satisfactory way with the third book of the OWL MAGE trilogy, entitled Owlknight, by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon.

Darian is now two years older (around twenty) and poised to be the vale leader of k’Valedemar, which serves as a place of peace, protection, and cultural mixing just inside the borders of Valdemar. These are the lands that are so far from the capital of Valdemar that the Queen often ignores what happens there, believing the villages are not strategic locations nor have Very Important People. k’Valdemar has changed that; now there are mages and Hawkbrothers and healers. The Queen notices and decides to send a Herald and his trainee to live in the area for a year.

Keisha, the healer, is now trained and living in k’Valdemar as Darian’s lover and partner, but she must share her time at their home village, Errold’s Grove. The time Darian and Keisha spend apart is taxing on the young couple, making Keisha doubt if their relationship would work long term. Case in point, when the news of the new Herald and his trainee reach k’Valdemar and the surrounding villages and clans, a council votes to increase Darian’s status so he is on equal footing with the Herald. He is made a knight by a local Lord, a brother of the Ghost Cat clan, and passes the test to become a master-level mage set by his Hawkbrother tutor. Now that Darian is so important, where does Keisha and her constant travelling fit in?

If that weren’t enough, Darian finds evidence that his parents, who disappeared ten years ago during the mage storms, may be alive in another region far away. Can he leave k’Valdemar vale now that he’s a leader? Would Keisha leave her patients to come with him? It’s a journey that would take months and lead a party through hostile clan territory.

Owlknight includes playful details, making the writing more lively than some trilogies we’ve read. The boys of the Ghost Cat clan would raid Errold’s Grove to pass a manhood test. While all stolen items were cheap and returned, the villagers felt violated because the boys entered their homes in the middle of the night. To continue the manhood test while keeping the peace, the council of k’Valdemar decide the boys will try to sneak up on a dyheli and leave a hand print. Dyheli are basically anthropomorphized impalas; they’re large, magical, dry-humored, and wise. The interaction between boys and the herd was a great detail to give life to the setting and culture.

I was so excited as I read this last book that I ate it up quickly and regretted the sadness I felt afterward. I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters. We get realistic portrays of life, such as how to balance a work-life relationship. Keisha wonders if she’s meant to give up her work because she’s a woman, but Mercedes Lackey doesn’t write your typical mother/housekeeper characters. Sure, many women in villages distant from the more liberal capital of Valdemar are homemakers and follow patriarchal ideas, but there are examples of the working woman throughout the kingdom. What Darian and Keisha would ask each other to give up, and how they approached that conversation, was interesting to read.

While part of Owlknight is about romantic relationships and identity, about a third is a travel quest in true fantasy tradition. Meeting people, conquering various difficulties of foes, and characters learning about themselves — this is what made Owlknight so memorable to me. Lines of wisdom filled me up, in particular this gem:

Do not let yesterday use of too much of today.

In a clever fashion, Lackey and Dixon make the novel feel pleasingly circular. After Darian takes on several new identities (vale leader, knight, “brother,” master mage), he’s led back to his first identity: who he was with his parents. Furthermore, there are several callbacks to Vanyel in THE LAST-HERALD MAGE trilogy, making the series feel full circle. The search party follows some of Vanyel’s travels as he went to meet the mage who haunted his dreams with death. So cool — and I’m sure Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku was squeeing then, too.

The ending battle was incredibly smart, avoiding the kind of magic that’s so big it ends in an explosion and the character wakes up to basically say, “Did we win?” Darian understands that a coup de grâce isn’t necessary simply because one can do magic. Using one’s resources sparsely and relying on wits is more interesting.

A highly recommended book, and possibly one of my favorite of #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.

18 comments

  1. Well I might be interested in reading the black gryphon to refresh me memory of that series. And I never read the oathbound trilogy. I do remember loving both brightly burning and to take a thief. I will not reading the whole 2020 list but mehaps a few here and there.
    x The Captain

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    • Excellent! I’m so excited. I know I’m pumped to read that griffon trilogy because it’s been mentioned SO many times throughout the last several trilogies we’ve read. It will be nice to finally read what happened. And I’ve been interested in the Brightly Burning character ever since I read about him in Talia’s trilogy, way back in the very first book!

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  2. I’m interested that you found the character development praiseworthy. So many SF and fantasy novels have lightly sketched characters and relationships, I have come to expect nothing better, just reading for the ideas or the journey.

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    • Jackie and I keep wondering to what extent Larry Dixon affected the plot of this series. Your comment prompted me to do some Googling, and I found that Lackey and Dixon have some videos online, where I hope they discuss what it’s like to write together. I plan to watch these videos this weekend. Otherwise, Lackey tends to be a very private writer, which is why I don’t typically Google anything about her. In fact, for such a famous writer, her website looks like something made on GeoCities.

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  3. I couldn’t get into Owlflight in the end – I picked it because this particular trilogy was the Lackey book that is most readily available in my local library. It sounds like it might be worth persevering with it if Owlknight is so good, though. Having got to the end of this year’s Reading Valdemar, where would you suggest that I start with Lackey’s works?

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    • Honestly, I would read The Heralds of Valdemar trilogy, The Last Herald-Made trilogy, and then go back and read them chronologically by series, not by how Lackey published them. For example, we’ve read about the mage wars SO many times by now, but we haven’t read that trilogy! It doesn’t really hinder the reading — you get a sense of what happened — but it would have been nice to go in order. I recommend the two series I do first because The Heralds of Valdemar is important to setting up what the series is about (and was the first trilogy Lackey wrote) and The Last Herald-Mage is about Vanyel, who affects pretty much every book thereafter and is referenced many times.

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  4. Congratulations!! You did it!! That is so awesome! I’m so impressed that you stuck to your plan. Glad that your last read was a good one. I was about to ask the question of which order I should read the books in, but I see that question & your response above.

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    • Yes! It’s weird that you can’t really go in publishing order because Lackey was writing for and publishing different Valdemar trilogies year after year. How in the hell did readers keep up as they came out??

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      • I think Lackey knew a lot about Valdemar’s history from the very beginning because of the way she refers to “past” events such as the Tedrel Wars in the earliest books, but which takes place in Exile’s Honor that was published many years later. After all, Alberich is known to be an exile from Karse from the very beginning. His books just flesh that out and establish his friendship with Queen Selenay, which was critical in getting his acceptance in Valdemar.

        After Alberich’s books Lackey took a five year break from Valdemar. Then she went back about 500 years and began the Collegium Chronicles featuring Mags and his friend/love, Amily. There are eight books about Mags, followed by a trilogy about his children. (Mags was never a child.)

        Next she plans to write about King Valdemar and the founding of the nation. Plus she and Larry will write a book about Darian’s best friend Kelvren the gryphon.

        When you read the second book about Tarma and Kethry you find out why Rethwellan helps in Valdemar’s war with Ancar in By the Sword.

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        • There’s this show in the U.S. that is on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network called Venture Brothers. The writers of the show have talked about how there’s always some random loose thread in an episode, so what they do when they write a new season is look back from loose threads and then write new episodes in which they pull those threads. Thus, when you watch the show, it seems brilliantly plotted, like, “WHO COULD THINK THROUGH ALL THIS?!??! IT’S SO GENIUS!!!” And then you realize that they never thought it through, they just built off of random things. I almost wondered if Lackey did something like that. Basically, using her own writing as inspiration for future books.

          We’re planning on continuing #ReadingValdemar into 2021, which is when we will get to the Mags books and the Spy ones that she’s still writing. I hope you join us!

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