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.