When I started this reread, I did not consider myself a fan of the Winds trilogy.
The whole point of re-reading is that it is not the same experience as reading. I still feel that this installment of the series has some major problems. But on the whole, this trilogy, especially Winds of Fury, is kind of like a Christmas tree. There’s a side of it you want to turn towards the wall, but it’s covered in shiny things.
I do not like the new, whinier Skif. The Dawnfire plot is another problem. And I really hate Nyara. I’m not a fan of sexy torture victims as a character class. I wish Lackey had made some different choices in creating the character. And let me say right this very second that I welcome any and all comments about Nyara EXCEPT those that assert that it is realistic that an evil Mage who has created a daughter for the express purpose of having a creature entirely under his own control on whom he can test the physical modifications he is considering for his own body would want to make her as sexy as possible. The only realistic thing about Nyara is that she’s deeply traumatized.
On the shiny side, to my surprise, we have Ancar.
Ancar has ninety-nine problems, and bitches are ALL of them. Ordinarily I would avoid the word, but Ancar does not share my sense of propriety. Ancar is contemplating his surfeit of bitches while sitting in the audience chamber in which he no longer gives audiences. It’s possible it just has the best AC in the palace, but I prefer to think Ancar is hanging out there BECAUSE THERE IS A GIANT MAP INLAID ON THE FLOOR. Ancar is upset that he hasn’t been able to expand his territory despite a series of expensive military campaigns, so his floor is mostly up-to-date. Hardorn is sandwiched between the enormous Eastern Empire (ruled by Wizard Charliss and extending to the Great Eastern Sea) and a collection of small countries that the Eastern Empire is probably thinking about taking over. As Hardorn’s King, Ancar is feeling the strain of this, and of being cheated by Hulda, who he feels is deliberately holding back on instruction in magic. Ancar needs to be able to manipulate nodes and in service of this goal, he builds a Gate with no destination and accidentally summons Mournelith Falconsbane.
You didn’t think he was going to stay dead, did you? I continue to disapprove of his penchant for torturing people, but I love his inner monologue. Between the strains of having been trapped in the formless void for about a week, and the binding spells Ancar slapped on him when he got out, all Mournelith can really do is nap, scheme, and think snarky thoughts. When Ancar explains that Hulda ditched her job as Elspeth’s nanny because of his incredible potential, Mournelith does his best not to chortle. When Valdemar’s magical barriers come down and no one knows why, Mournelith is like, “You’re welcome.”
So what are the good guys doing? They’ve been kidnapped for an emergency meeting with Vanyel in Sorrows. THIS IS SO INFORMATIVE. Not only do we get confirmation that Vanyel still guards Sorrows, and that he made Valdemar inhospitable to magic users, we also find out that he has the inside scoop on what goes on with the Companions. Vanyel is openly critical of the decision to assign Elspeth a Grove-born Companion. Also he is the first person to tell Elspeth that her Companion is Grove-born. Gwena is only seven years old and completely inexperienced. Vanyel implies that he would have preferred to have Elspeth partnered with a former Herald Mage. Because I love to speculate, I’m guessing that Sayvil would have preferred that too. This might explain her habit of MindSpeaking with anyone she wants, which I read as a criticism of Rolan who doesn’t even MindSpeak with Talia under most circumstances.
Vanyel’s conversation with Elspeth and Darkwind is Mage business, and doesn’t really involve Skif and Nyara, so they hang out with GhostStefen and watch his hair shift from red to blond. Skif thinks Stefen looks familiar, like a trusted old friend. Is Skif the reincarnation of someone Stefen once knew? Has GhostStefen been moonlighting as a mentor to Haven’s street urchins? Suddenly, I need to reread Take A Thief very, very carefully.
The end result of the Sorrows Conference is that Vanyel is taking down Valdemar’s protections against magic, and Elspeth, Darkwind, Firesong, and the Gryphons are reviving magic in Valdemar. There’s a little hiccup though, because, with Falconsbane’s encouragement, Ancar has started attacking Valdemar with an endless stream of mind-controlled infantry. How will Valdemar deal with this menace? By sending in a five-person team disguised as a circus!
This solves some problems. Gwena tramples Ancar to death. Rumors about Nyara draw Falconsbane to the circus, where Skif uses some impromptu shadow puppets to draw him into the tent where Nyara stabs him with Need. Falconsbane survived from the Mage Wars to the present day by possessing the bodies of his Mage-gifted descendants, and with some help from the Star-Eyed Goddess, Need heals the fatal stab wound and gives the body back to Andesha, who is already in love with Firesong. Hulda is attempting to flee with the Ambassador from the Eastern Empire when Elspeth puts a throwing knife in her eye. Just when everything is looking good for Valdemar, Elspeth also kills the ambassador to the Eastern Empire, who falls backwards through a gate back to his home country with one of her throwing knives in his throat. If this trilogy has a moral lesson, it is about the folly of putting your coat of arms on the weapons you are carrying on covert ops.
What’s your favorite shiny thing? Why does Skif recognize Stefen? Tell me about it in the comments!
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.