As happens sometimes with even our favorite authors, my initial impressions of the Owl trilogy weren’t the best. I loved that Mercedes Lackey showed us an unfamiliar area of Valdemar than previously explored in it, but some characters rubbed me the wrong way.
All right. The main character annoyed the hell out of me in the first book. I’ll admit it. However, having read the trilogy several times over now during reread marathons of the entire series, I can see that it has its merits in terms of story and many of the supporting characters. I’ve even come to love it almost as much as other parts of the overarching story of Velgarth.
This is not quite a “Chosen One” story, nor is it a traditional high fantasy quest. Instead, it’s another character-driven story from Lackey interspersed with a bit more action than a few of her previous books. There are twists and turns with antagonists that were surprising as well, and Lackey gets in a non-preachy moral of not judging someone based on cultural stereotypes into the second book. Not only are there new cultures, but beloved cultures from previous books are also on display, and we get to see even more of their inner workings.
Date Published: 1997, 1998, 1999
Genre: High Fantasy
Number of Times I’ve Read It: At least 5
Content Warning: None
Accessibility: Available in eBook, audiobook, and print as individual books
Owlflight (4/5 Stars)
Apprenticed to a venerable wizard when his hunter and trapper parents disappear into the forest never to be seen again, Darian is difficult and strong willed–much to the dismay of his kindly master. But a sudden twist of fate will change his life forever, when the ransacking of his village forces him to flee into the great mystical forest. It is here in the dark forest that he meets his destiny, as the terrifying and mysterious Hawkpeople lead him on the path to maturity. Now they must lead the assault on his besieged home in a desperate attempt to save his people from certain death!
Owlsight (4/5 Stars)
It has been four years since Darian saw his village sacked and burned by barbarians. Taking refuge with the Hawkbrothers, he soon finds his life’s calling–as a Healing Adept. But even as he learns the mystical ways of this ancient race, Darian cannot escape the dangers threatening his future. Another tribe of barbarians is approaching. The time has come…to stand up and fight.
Owlknight (3/5 Stars)
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…
Once I got past my dislike of Darian, the main protagonist of the Owl trilogy, I could see that Owlflight is a neat, tightly paced story with yet more delving into the rich world that Lackey has built over the decades. Although Darian is a whiny teenager in this book, he does eventually get a clue or two. He goes off to live with and learn from the Hawkbrothers, which improves him. The bond bird is a pleasant touch as well, and even on first read through, I got a little misty eyed at the end.
We get to see more of the Hawkbrothers and Darian in Owlsight when they come to make a permanent embassy next to Darian’s old village. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a good romantic subplot in fantasy, so the sweet one that develops here is probably what made me like Darian more over time and several rereads. The new co-protagonist, Keisha, is my favorite character by far in the trilogy, and although I’m sad that she wasn’t in the first book because I probably would have liked it more, I understand why for character building and plot purposes. I love seeing the same village through her eyes that we saw through Darian’s in the first book. The differences are so interesting! It’s also pretty cool to see Darian’s adult impressions of the village now that he is no longer the unwanted orphan foisted on them but a returning hero. The plot in this one is more political than action oriented. This is where we get a good dose of “don’t judge a book by its cover” and see Darian and the other villagers learn to overcome prejudices organically.
Owlknight is my least favorite of the trilogy, mostly because it feels a little contrived as far as the plot goes. The “parents returned from the dead” trope, while well-done, is not one of my favorites. I think it would have been more interesting to see something about Darian and Keisha far in the future, perhaps heading to the capital city as ambassadors during a crisis. But this is the book we have, and overall it’s not bad. The plot is well written and the characters are still on-point.
I recommend this trilogy to anyone who wants a good bit more sorcery than swords, especially since the principal weapons used in any of the action scenes are bows and arrows and traps, besides magic. It also reads very much young adult/new adult, so I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a fantasy story in that range that settles more on the light side of the darkness spectrum.
I suggest reading in publication order the first time trying to get through all the Valdemar series simply due to the way that she developed some details and how they’re introduced or mentioned in each trilogy. However, that isn’t a requirement, and there are plenty of people who have started chronologically or who just pick up somewhere in the middle.
© Allyson Pauley 2021