Winds of Fate by Mercedes Lackey
Series: Mage Winds, Valdemar
Published by DAW on October 3, 1992
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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 agin if he and his people are to survive an enemy able to wreak greater devastation with spells of destruction than with swords...
This is it. The book that started it all. The beginning of my Mercedes Lackey habit and my Fantasy journey.
For me, Everything Valdemar begins with Elspeth. From my review of By the Sword:
I first met Mercedes Lackey while browsing the stacks at the public library in my home town. I don’t remember what grade I was in but I was somewhere in the area that covers both Middle and High school. Regardless, before Mercedes Lackey, I’d mostly read a lot of Science Fiction and SF anthologies. I’d just found MZB’s Swords & Sorceress anthologies when a brightly colored cover caught my eye as I wandered the stacks.
That book happened to be Winds of Fate (Mage Winds #1). And goodness! That cover was MADE for people like me! It felt like the book screamed my name. I mean, look at all that purple!!!! THAT horse! I grabbed a copy and continued on. I hadn’t a clue as to how this one book would truly change my life.
That night (which also happened to be a school night), I started reading Winds of Fate. And I was entranced. I fell deeply in love: with the characters, with the series, with the author and with Fantasy. I stayed up all night reading that book. When my dad yelled at me to go to bed, I turned out the lights and immediately dived under the covers with a flashlight to read. I finished the book sometime in the early dawn hours. I was exhausted but oh, so emotionally satisfied. And I was “feining” like a crackhead and desperate for my next fix: Winds of Change.
Elspeth has always been the gateway through which I’ve viewed Valdemar. When reading about Kerowyn in By the Sword (or any Valdemar book), I think “Elspeth’s _____!” I started with Elspeth and everything still flows through her. I haven’t read the Mage Winds trilogy in quite some time – I decided to pick it for a variety of reasons but the main one being nostalgia. And – thank goodness – the Suck Fairy hasn’t visited this part of Valdemar yet.
Elspeth – like most Fantasy MCs – is a special snowflake. But what I LOVE about Elspeth is that her special-ness comes pretty honestly: her pedigree is well plotted out over the course several different Valdemar books – she didn’t just pop up with powers out of nowhere. Even Elspeth’s magical sword, Need, is actively shown in the hands of at least two different (powerful and extraordinary) women prior to Elspeth obtaining her.
The other things I like about Elspeth are related to her low grade snarkiness. Elspeth is no Kate Daniels but she’s pretty competent, she’s a damn good fighter and she knows her own mind.
It was a feeling. One that had been increasing, every step she rode toward Lythecare. The feeling that she was being herded toward something, some destiny, like a complacent cow to the alter of sacrifice.
“That’s it,” she said. “That is it. I am not playing this game anymore.”
“What?” Now Skif looked at her as if certain she had gone mad.
“I am being herded to something, and I don’t like it,” she snapped, as much for Gwena’s ears as his. “I did want to do this, and Valdemar certainly needs mages, but I am not going to be guided by an invisible hand, as if I were a character in a badly-written book! This is not a foreordained Quest, I am not in a Prophecy, and I am not playing this game anymore.”
Yes. 😀 That’s the Elspeth I know and love.
Winds of Fate is the beginning of something new (or rather, the return of something old) for Valdemar. Valdemar has been “immune” to magic for time out of mind. This magic immunity has kept Valdemar safe from magical attacks but now it seems to be crumbling. Heir to the throne, Elspeth, volunteers to go searching for mages and teachers to assist Valdemar in it’s fight against despot King Ancar of Hardon. This search will land Elspeth in the middle of the kind of trouble she only had nightmares about – but could possibly bring her heart’s desire.
While Elspeth is searching for magical teaching as assistance, far away the Tayledras scout Darkwind is also beset by magical enemies who wish the death of all things Tayledras. Can the two meet and possibly help each other survive? The resounding answer is YES. Or maybe, lol. I love Darkwind – almost as much as I like Elspeth. Darkwind has had some rough things happen to him in his short life but he manages to be stronger and more resilient instead of becoming brittle due to stress.
There are a lot of things I could discuss about Winds of Fate but I’d rather you read for yourself. Winds of Fate has a good deal of non-graphic adult content: Lackey doesn’t dwell but she does show the kinds of evil that man can commit. There is incest, torture, and attempted murder in Winds of Fate but there is also love, kindness, forgiveness and sacrifice. Winds of Fate (and the rest of the Valdemar series) is what I call “hopeful” fantasy: while there maybe sad parts, the good guys will win the day.