The next book I read in my reading marathon of the Heralds of Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey was Winds of Fate (fantasy 458 pages), the first book in The Mage Winds trilogy.
“High magic had been lost to Valdemar centuries ago when the last Herald-Mage gave his life to save the kingdom from destruction by dark sorceries. Yet now the realm is at risk again. And Elspeth, Herald and heir to the throne, must take up the challenge, abandoning her home to find a mentor who can awaken her untrained mage abilities. But others, too, are being caught up in a war against sorcerous evil. The Tayledras scout Darkwind is the first to stumble across the menace creeping forth from the ‘Uncleansed Lands.’ And as sorcery begins to take its toll, Darkwind may be forced to call upon powers he has sworn never to use again if he and his people are to survive an enemy able to wreak greater devastation with spells of destruction than with swords.”
I don’t think I’ve actually read this series very often, I think maybe twice before now? I remember enjoying the series as a whole a lot more than I enjoyed this particular book, but I think that’s mostly because of how much had to happen before the two main characters met and interacted. There were also a lot of flashbacks, which did help a lot with the backstory and a lot of the complicated histories that a reader would have no knowledge of (even if they’d read all the other Valdemar books). I’m typically a reader who enjoys chronological stories so the flashbacks, while providing good history and knowledge, were a little more extensive than I would normally prefer. And those flashbacks were definitely useful if you haven’t read the other Valdemar books that were written after Arrows of the Queen but chronologically take place before the events of that book.
Winds of Fate has one particular section on pages 173-175 where Quenten is preparing himself to deal with a spoiled Princess with romantic notions of going off on a quest and instead is faced with a situation which eclipses his capabilities. This entire section continues to amuse me greatly regardless how many times I read it. There is a similar section about judging people based on pre-conceived notions which happens on page 386: “If this is a trial of my abilities – the gods have no sense of proportion.” I guess these sections are particularly amusing for me because of everything I’ve gone through and experienced in my own life in the last several years. Though, from the outside, talking about personal experiences when doing a book review might seem off-topic, but books are designed to help us learn about ourselves and the world around us. In 2013, I met someone who changed everything about my entire life and one of those changes was learning to see that jumping into situations without attempting to understand how those situations came to be and why those involved have acted the way they did is extremely inappropriate. Until and unless you have spent any length of time in someone else’s life, you have no idea what they’ve been through or where they’re at in life and you don’t get to say what’s right or wrong for them in their lives unless their actions are causing intentional harm to other people.
This book took a long time to get going, but that’s mostly because entirely new characters and new cultures had to be introduced, which tends to take a bit of time. Reading the series in order, I’m already familiar with Elspeth, Gwena, Skif, Cymry, and Need, but cultural introductions were needed for Darkwind, Starblade, Treyvan, and Hydona all needed introductions, as well the gryphons and the Tale’sedrin in general. Elspeth and Darkwind each had to go through their own adventures before they could meet so the reader would have an accurate grasp of the story from both points of view, which is important when setting up something as complicated as the world-building here.
One of the things that has really stuck out with me about the Valdemar books in general is the incredibly in-depth world-building in all of the Valdemar books. There are different cultures, different countries, different terrain, different ideologies, different styles of governance, and even different styles of creating living and working environments for entire populaces. Some people are farmers, some people are nomadic plainspeople, some people live in cities with all the different commerce and trade, some people live in shielded domes with exotic plants. And yet, when it comes time for those who are good and positive people to face against those who are selfish, greedy, and power-hungry, all the different cultures and the different people bond together and are more successful because of their diversity. Good wins the day because they work together.
Overall, I’d say this book is probably a solid or low three on my rating scale. It takes a long time for the characters to actually start doing something and even longer for those characters to start interacting with each other. But the world-building is fascinating and the characters are different and interesting. I’m glad I own this book, as it’s in one of the series I read regularly and I am likely to reread it again in the future.
Works cited: Lackey, Mercedes. Winds of Fate. New York: Daw Book, Inc., 1991.