Reviewed by Holly White
Owlflight is the first book in Mercedes Lackey’s Owl Mage Trilogy, part of her ongoing series about the country of Valdemar. It follows the books in her Mage Storm trilogy, in which an unprecedented series of mage storms attacked Valdemar and all the surrounding lands.
The book begins in the small village of Errold’s Grove,where a young boy named Darian is orphaned when both his parents perish in the aftermath of the mage storms. His fellow villagers forcibly apprenticed Darian to the local mage, Justyn. Darian, who had no interest in mage craft, was far more interested in continuing to trap in the forest as his parents had taught him to do. But the villagers told him that his parents brought their fate upon themselves, by trapping in the Pelagirs forest, which was known to be a haven for magical beasts, a situation which had only been exacerbated by the recent mage storms. Furthermore, the villagers repeatedly informed Darian that he should be grateful that they had undertaken the burden of feeding and clothing him. Thirdly, the villagers felt he should obviously be apprenticed to the local mage because Darian was the only one among them who had any mage sense.
Darian’s master Justyn, was kind to Darian and allowed him to go frequently in to the forest he loved, but Darian still chafed at the menial tasks he was required to perform, and even more at having to learn basic magic. Justyn, who had once been a powerful adept-class mage, had suffered a massive head wound, which had nearly been fatal, during a battle in the recent wars. This injury had crippled his use of magic, and that handicap had been made worse by the mage storms, for now there was little or no mage energy in the earth from which to draw. These unfortunate circumstances caused the villagers to disrespect Justyn and his so-called mage powers; they only viewed him as someone convenient to have around for the healing of minor wounds and for predicting the weather. So they had shunted Darian off like the unwanted burden they thought him, onto the least-respected man in the village.
Such was the way of things until the day Barbarians from the north with a mage at their head attacked the village and killed all the members of their hastily-assembled militia. Justyn told Darian to run, and Darian, aware of how ill-suited he was to do anything about the situation, ran away with the rest of the frightened villagers. Justyn meanwhile held the bridge against the onslaught by calling upon mage powers he had never before been able to summon since his injury.
Barbarian soldiers almost captured Darian, but a Hawkbrother of all people, rescued him by putting arrows in the soldiers. The Hawkbrother took him back to his camp where he met the rest of the group of Hawkbrothers and their allies who were encamped there together. Now that Darian was surrounded by Hawkbrothers, he did not know if they would turn out to be friend or foe. Although Darian hoped the rest of the villagers had made it to safety at a nearby fortified holding, he could not be sure. And he dared not think about what might have been Justyn’s fate.
What would happen to Darian now? Although he had disliked his life before, at least he had known where it was heading and on whom he could count. What would happen to the other villagers who had fled before the onslaught of the cruel Barbarians? And would the Hawkbrothers turn out to be friendly, or were they just a new, different kind of enemy? These questions and more can be answered by reading Owlflight.
Any adult who loves good vs. evil stories, magic, and fantasy creatures and lands, will love this book. It’s well-written, well-characterized, and well-plotted. I’m looking forward to doing my next Valdemar book review, on Owlslight, the second in the Owl Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.