Winds of Fury

by Mercedes Lackey

Cover image

Series: Mage Winds #3
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: August 1994
ISBN: 0-88677-612-0
Format: Mass market
Pages: 427

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This is the concluding book of the Mage Winds trilogy and a direct sequel to Winds of Change. This series doesn't make sense to read out of order.

In traditional fantasy trilogies of this type, the third book is often the best. The author can stop developing characters, building the world, and setting the scene and can get to the meat of the story. All the guns on the mantles go off, all the twists the author has been saving can be used, and there's usually a lot more action than in the second book of a trilogy. That is indeed the case here. I'm not sure Winds of Fury rises to the level of a good book, but if you're invested in the Valdemar story, it works better than the previous books of this series.

As one might expect, the protagonists do return to Valdemar, finally. The method of that return makes sense of some things that happened in Winds of Change and is an entertaining surprise, although I wish more had been done with it through the rest of the book and we'd gotten more world-building details. I also like how Lackey handles the Valdemar reactions to the returning protagonists, and their own reactions to Valdemar. Lackey's characters might fit some heavy-handed stereotypes a bit too neatly, but they do grow and change over the course of a series, and the return home is a good technique for showing that.

Lackey also throws in her final twist for the villains of this series at the start of this book, and it's a good one (if typical Lackey; she does love her abused youth characters). The villains are still far too one-dimensional and far too stereotyped evil, but the twist (which I'll avoid spoiling) does make that dynamic a bit more interesting. And she manages to get the reader to root for one evil over another, since one of them is at least competent.

You'd think from the direction the series was taking that Winds of Fury would culminate in another epic war of magic, but not this book. Lackey takes a more personal and targeted approach, heavier on characterization and individual challenge. This gives Firesong a chance to grow into an almost-likable character and earn some of that empathy and insight that he'd gotten for free. Unfortunately, it sidelines Nyara a lot, and pushes her back into a stereotyped role, which made me sad. The series otherwise emphasizes the importance of magic users who know their own limitations and can thoughtfully use the power they have, but rarely extends that to Nyara herself. I would have much rather seen her play a role like that in the final climax instead of the one she played.

This is partly made up for by centering Need in the story and having her play the key connecting role between two different threads of effort. Those are probably the best parts of this book. I wish the entire series had been told from Need's perspective, with a heavy helping of exasperated grumbling, although I don't think Lackey could have written that series. But what we get of her is a delight. The gryphons, sadly, are relegated to fairly minor roles, but we get a few more tantalizing hints about the Companions to make up for it. (Although not enough to figure out their great mystery, which isn't revealed until future books.)

This series is nowhere near as good as I remembered, sadly, but I did enjoy bits of it. If you like Valdemar in general, the world building is fairly important and reveals quite a lot about the underpinnings and power dynamics of Lackey's universe. I'm not sure that makes up for some tedious characters, poor communication, and some uncomfortable and dragging sections, but if you're trying to get the whole Valdemar story, the events here are rather important. And this ending was at least entertaining, if not great fiction.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2016-10-02

Last modified and spun 2016-10-03