Series: Owl Mage #3
Published by DAW Books Genres: Fantasy
Source: my personal collection
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Also in this series: Owlflight, Owlsight
Also by this author: The Serpent's Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, Home from the Sea, Steadfast, Elemental Magic:, Blood Red, House of Four Winds, The Fairy Godmother, The Lark and the Wren, Owlflight, From a High Tower, Owlsight, Closer to Home, Hunter, Closer to the Heart, Take a Thief, A Study in Sable, Closer to the Chest, Beyond
From fantasy legends Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon comes the third and final volume in a powerful saga charged with war and magic, life and love.... Two years after his parents' disappearance, Darian has sought refuge and training from the mysterious Hawkbrothers. Now he has opened his heart to a beautiful young healer. Finally Darian has found peace and acceptance in his life. That is, until he learns that his parents are still alive-and trapped behind enemy borders....
The third and final book in the Owl Mage trilogy takes us into uncharted territory – literally – as Darian, Keisha, and several of their friends head into the lands north of Valdemar to search for Darian’s parents. First, though, there are a number of tests and ceremonies for Darian to undergo.
Gone are the pacing problems of Owlsight. Even before the search party leaves, there is plenty going on, from Darian’s Mastery trial to the arrival of a permanently-assigned Herald and the festivities surrounding his appointment to the region. Following that, Darian’s search for traces of his parents turns up evidence that they may not have died, and the pace picks up even more.
Lackey doesn’t neglect character development in this book. Darian and Keisha both grow and mature, and we also see development in Shandi (Keisha’s sister, now a full Herald) and even Hywel, a young warrior from Ghost Cat who accompanies them as guide.
But it’s the lands and people to the north that fascinate me the most. Lackey bases them on the Pacific Northwest and its indigenous peoples, from their social structures to their art. (This has been evident since Owlsight, given what we know of Ghost Cat tribe.) “Borrowing” elements from other cultures is hardly new for Lackey; I think the Tayledras or Hawkbrothers are based at least in part on Algonquian peoples, while their Shin’a’in cousins to the south are loosely based on nomadic horse-loving tribes of the Eurasian steppes. But Lackey’s borrowing (or appropriation?) of Pacific Northwest indigenous art and traditions is a bit more blatant. Nonetheless, it works here, and Lackey manages to avoid characterizing her fictitious northern tribes as either “noble savages” or “ignorant barbarians” (although not all the characters in the book do the same, which adds realism.) Nor does she idealize the northern tribes, portraying both the strengths and problems in their cultures.
Exploring other cultures is one of the aspects I really love about SF/F, so I always enjoy this chance to visit a part of Velgarth that we haven’t experienced before. On the other hand, every time I re-read, I’m sorry to reach the end of Darian’s story. I’ve become rather fond of him and of Keisha, but they’ve both fully come into their own, and that’s where Lackey usually leaves her characters. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see them appear as minor characters in a future book someday, I’m not holding my breath. Lackey has spent the last six years delving into Valdemar’s past, and I don’t think she’s ready to return to Valdemar’s future until she finishes the Herald Spy series.