by Jane Lindskold
Review by Sam Lubell
Tor ISBN/ITEM#: 076530936X
Date: November, 2004 List Price 0.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
This series combines the mythic overtones of a Tarzan or Mowgli with a conventional low-magic fantasy world. The first book, Through Wolf?s Eyes, makes the point that growing up in a wolfpack is actually very good training for survival in the politics of a medieval court. In the second book, Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart, Firekeeper's two worlds come into conflict when she is asked by the Royal Beasts that raised her to find three magic items that would make the humans more powerful than the Beasts. The third book, however, The Dragon of Despair seemed less mythic and more ordinary, not up to the quality of the first two books. So, in Wolf Captured, Jane Lindskold made a major change. The book begins with Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and Derian Carter, the only supporting character from the previous books to appear here (except for Waln, a villain from the second book) waking up on a boat, having been kidnapped from their kingdom for some strange reason.
That reason is slowly revealed. In the land of Liglim, the people know of the existence of the intelligent animals, and use them as oracles to interpret the will of the elements they worship as Gods. Naturally, they are interested in Firekeeper's ability to communicate directly with animals and want her to teach them, or failing that, serve as interpreter herself. But Firekeeper fears that these animals, called the Wise Beasts, are being held captive by the humans, and also wants to learn the truth about the legends of humans who can transform themselves into Beasts, her dearest wish. So she goes to an island that, by treaty with the Beasts, is exclusive to Beasts and forbidden to humans. There she must prove herself a wolf and learn the truth. Meanwhile, Derian is being seduced both figuratively by the existence of the Wise Horses and the horse-oriented culture that cares for them, and literally by the beautiful Rahniseeta. In addition to all that, one of the religious leaders secretly plots to bring back the era of blood sacrifice, using captive sailors and Waln to invade the Beasts? island.
In this book, Derian, always a major character, carries more weight, becoming almost co-equal with Firekeeper. In the previous books the author used Derian, whose family raises horses and keeps stables for a living, as an example of the common people, and to provide contrast with Firekeeper as someone who is part outsider in the world of kings and courts, but knowledgeable enough to teach Firekeeper. In Wolf Captured, Derian is the only person around from Firekeeper's first human culture. There's also a deepening of Firekeeper's relationship with Blind Seer as Firekeeper becomes jealous when Blind Seer is courted by a female wolf and admits that one of the reasons she wants to learn how to assume a wolf?s shape is to mate with Blind Seer. A new character here, Rahniseeta grows from being her brother?s shadow, an innocent who performs minor duties in the temple rather than making her own path, into a strong character who can make a difference in her own right.
Although this is the fourth book in a series, it stands alone in a way the second and third books do not. Because the characters are in a new land, it must be explained to them and they to its residents, in ways that also inform the new reader. Of course, readers will benefit from reading the previous three books, but there?s really only one element from the second and third books so a reader can jump right from Through Wolf's Eyes to this one without losing much (although I strongly recommend reading Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart as it is almost as good as the first book). The series is made to order for readers who want strong characterization, a mythic flavor, and books where people, not magic, must solve the problems.
So where will Lindskold go with these books now? This book ends on note that certainly could end the series, and Firekeeper at last knows who she really is. But at the same time, the door is left open for further adventures. Still, if Lindskold felt the need to shake things up in the fourth book, in my view accurately as this book was much stronger than its predecessor, would it be wise to return Firekeeper back to the status quo. I enjoy these books and would like to see Firekeeper again. However, I think it would be best for the author to take a break from this series ? four books have come out in two and a half years ? so things can be fresh when Firekeeper and company return.