Winds of Change (Mage Winds trilogy #2)
by Mercedes Lackey
First published in 1992 by DAW
In this second installment of Mercedes Lackey’s Mage Winds trilogy, Elspeth, heir to the throne of Valdemar, officially becomes a member of the k’Sheyna clan of the Hawkbrothers in or order to continue her training as a mage. Her friend Skif must take the same oaths as Elspeth, but as he does not have abilities as a mage, his role in the Hawkbrothers’ vale is less defined. Both find themselves wrapped up in the daily lives of the k’Sheyna clan, as well as helping to defend it against the constant threats of magically warped creatures, as well as their old enemy, Mornelithe Falconsbane. While Elspeth remains at the vale to learn from Darkwind, Skif heads out into the woods with Wintermoon to search for the Changechild Nyara- both for their own reasons.
Thanks to the fact that Darkwind and Elspeth have met up (and the fact that Lackey isn’t having to info dump in the middle of the book), Winds of Change is a more cohesive book than its predecessor, Winds of Fate. Skif and Elspeth have also sorted out their relationship, so Skif’s jealousy over Elspeth is (happily) in the past. That’s not to say that jealousy doesn’t reappear in this story. It does. But when it comes up, the character inspiring it sits everyone down and makes them talk it out like the adults they’re supposed to be. It’s a refreshing change from all the obnoxious “we could work out our issues by talking, but instead, we’re going to hold our tongues and let things fester” plotlines out there.
Something else I appreciate is the character development that occurs throughout the story. Though they are all adults– Elspeth is one of the youngest at twenty-six– even adults can change and grow. Elspeth learns to open her mind to other cultures and realizes that, just because she is important to Valdemar it doesn’t follow that she is that important everywhere. Darkwind learns that he has a lot to learn, and that’s okay. Nyara learns that she has the strength and skill to take care of herself. Skif learns that he is not a horrible person because of one event from his past.
I have to admit that, in spite of the drama and moments of action, my favorite scene is a simple one: the gryphons invite Darkwind to their home for conversation and so he can install some bookshelves for them. That feels like a scene from real life when your friends call you up to see if you want pizza but they really want you to help them put together those deceptively simple Ikea shelves. There’s also a scene where Darkwind and Elspeth spend a few hours playing dress-up in Darkwind’s extensive but long-neglected fashion collection. (One of the details I enjoy about the Hawkbrothers is that one of their favored art forms is fashion. It shows their love of beauty, but is also practical for a group of people who might have to pack up and move the village on short notice.)
Winds of Change is a turning point for Lackey’s writing. By the time it was published in 1992, she had already published several novels in the world of Valdemar but their quality varied. Here, though, we have a cohesive set of storylines that contribute not only to the book itself but to the trilogy as a whole as well as the overarching plotline that has been rising throughout the past several books.
The Valdemar books may not be the deepest or the best-written fantasy novels out there, but they are fun to read and contain a wealth of likable characters who are easy to cheer for. Winds of Change marks an upturn in the quality of the books and makes me eager to read the last book of the trilogy, Winds of Fury.