Warning: There be Spoilers Ahead.
Compared to the first two, this book was a disappointment. From the beginning, the pacing was off. There wasn’t an inciting event in the first two chapters—or if there was, I completely missed it from getting drowned in unnecessary day-to-day details. I found myself skipping through paragraphs, trying to get to the meat of the story.
That may have been the problem. There wasn’t really a story beyond the origins of the Companions. Even the introduction of people that are practically myths by Elspeth’s time were basically glossed over. There could have been an entire story dedicated to Sunsinger and Shadowdancer, but what we basically got was “oh, here they are; here’s their problem; and ope, now it’s solved.” Same with Restil/Windrider and Darshay. There was another entire story there ready to be told and once again, it was glossed over.
Which leads me into one thing I did like about the story. The primary antagonist was female—instead of the standard evil male blood-mage. Unfortunately, that’s also where things started to fall apart.
While I like that there was an attempt to provide another link between Ma’ar and Valdemar besides Leareth, the way it was handled was incredibly clumsy and contradicted Ma’ar’s origins. Some of that could be brushed off because by Elspeth’s time, Ma’ar (now Falconsbane) was basically insane from the amount of time he spent hopping from body to body. So anything that we as the reader were privy to coming from Falconsbane’s mind probably couldn’t be taken as fact.
Glen Cook sort of did that with The Lady in Port of Shadows, and it was handled just as clumsily.
The implication from those earlier stories was that the fire-spell trap was intended for male descendants of Ma’ar. I can’t see Ma’ar wanting to inhabit a female body—no matter how powerful it is. The only way this could have been explained is that maybe Cloudfall was the first decent candidate since the Mage Wars and Ma’ar just got impatient?
—and why is there a Tayledras descendant of Ma’ar anyway? Unless, “spoils of war” so to speak. I’m sorry, I can’t enlighten any further without providing a trigger warning so… moving on…
While I love the attempt at showing that women can be just as evil as men, this wasn’t the way to do it. Creating a new female antagonist that happened to be a Tayledras that “turned to the Dark Side” without the presence of Ma’ar would have been a better way to go. Of course, that would have made the storytelling harder since you would have to come up with a motivation for turning evil other than being possessed. Plus a means of getting past whatever safeguards Tayledras and the Star-Eyed had in place.
Goes without saying that this is what happens when you box yourself in by creating a group of people that are essentially unimpeachable, monolithic clones of each other, like the Tayledras. You leave out the opportunity to get into some serious complex storytelling, and there was a missed opportunity to show here that maybe the Tayledras aren’t quite as good and perfect as you might think.
The thing is I think that this series should have been written over thirty years ago—much like how Gryphon in Light should have been written directly after the Owlknight series. I think that The Founding series as a whole should have come around the same time as The Mage Wars. However, I remember reading somewhere (oh dang, this had to be like 20 years ago on Livejournal or something) that Mercedes Lackey had said that she wanted to leave the events of The Founding left as myth, and I sort of see why now.
Holy hell—The Mage Winds and The Mage Storms are damned near 30 years old. I was 15/16 when those books came out. Damn, I’m feeling old.
This book felt incomplete—basically, The Founding needed more than three books to tell the complete story. Will we get additional books? Only time will tell.
I also felt the same way about The Mage Wars—any “foundation” story like these two really needs more than three books.
The last three Valdemar books from Lackey have felt like her heart wasn’t in it anymore. The first book of The Founding series had the original energy of the ’90s Valdemar novels but sort of lost it by the second book and Gryphon in Light. I strongly suspect that the current political climate of the country could have a lot to do with it. It felt like there was an attempt to water some things down, and place emphasis on the wrong things in an attempt to appeal to the modern PC crowd.
One example that comes to mind is retconning Nightwind as originally being male and transitioned to female in Gryphon in Light, forgetting that she and Snowfire had a baby in Owlknight. On that note, GiL was an entire nightmare of retconning and unedited reuse of material from short-stories. It was bad enough that I may not even bother with the next two books.
If that was the case, the problem is she was attempting to appease a group of people that likely wouldn’t have read her books anyway. In many ways, apologizing to a frenzied mob just makes the situation worse. You don’t owe them an apology or an explanation.
In all seriousness, the willingness to silence “wrong thought” and “wrong speech” and the overly broad interpretation of such has put me at odds with most modern-day liberals. What worries me is the amount of zealotry coming from the far left directly mirrors the loonies on the far right. It’s frightening to see liberals—a group of people that are supposed to be about freedom of expression and 1st Amendment rights—go out of their way to duplicate the tactics that conservatives have been using since 9/11.
And meanwhile, conservatives still employ the age-old tactic of taking over school boards and banning books that they don’t agree with.
It’s almost like we’re seeing a new group of politically-aware people that didn’t grow up with some of the landmark 1st Amendment cases of the 80s and 90s, and so do not understand just how important freedom of speech—regardless of whether or not you agree with it—really is. Coupled with the watering-down of the school system that started with No Child Left Behind, where kids aren’t taught to think critically anymore, it’s not surprising that we’re at this point.
Basically, it really sucks if you’re a creative person trying to put yourself out there because the current political climate doesn’t really allow for the original exploration of concepts and mores that could be done thirty- or heck, even twenty years ago.
Do I think it will get better? Honestly, I don’t know and don’t want to think about it.