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Windwalker by Elaine Cunningham

Posted by travizzt on November 4, 2009

Liriel Baenre and Fyodor travel to Rashemen, where Liriel wants to learn a new kind of magic. However, rivals from the past have other ideas.

Windwalker by Elaine Cunningham- This is the third and last book in the Starlight & Shadows trilogy. The first book is Daughter of the Drow and the second book is Tangled Webs. The events in this book take place directly after Tangled Webs.

The book continues the story of the drow wizard Liriel Baenre and her friend/ lover Fyodor on their travel back to Rashemen, which is Fyodor’s homeland. Along the way, the duo encounter old and new friends along with old and new enemies. Upon arriving in Waterdeep, Liriel gets a summons to go meet with Qilué (who is the high priestess of Eilistraee, the drow goddess of good) in which Liriel inadvertently unleashed the power of Lloth (or Lolth, the Spider Queen, the goddess of the drow) causing her to be thrown out and forced to make Fyodor’s and hers way to Rashemen. However, with the new friendships of Sharlarra Vindrith, an elf wizard and thief, and Thorn, a mysterious elf, they make it to Rashemen. But Liriel’s past and Lloth isn’t so content to let her go. Between Lloth, two old rivals, her father, and her aunt does Liriel and Fyodor have what it takes to live out their lives in Rashemen?

A Word Of Warning: I do have a few spoilers ahead. These are unavoidable in this circumstance. I apologize about that.

1) Rushed. The whole story, from start to finish, doesn’t let you take a moment to understand what is going on. With the earlier stories, there were some chapters of “down-time” where you could sort things out and follow what was happening. But in this book, everything is just coming at you quickly and it just does not give you a moments rest. There are a few reasons why everything feels rushed. The first being a huge lack of character development from the new characters. You barely get to understand why these characters are either helping or trying to stop Liriel from going to Rashemen. For example, take Sharlarra. You meet her in a quick manner, not really thinking that she will become this big character in the story, but then suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, she becomes a somewhat main character. Their was no real motivation given or reason why this is. Heck, Danilo Thann (whom Liriel and Fyodor met in Daughter of the Drow) was more believable than Sharlarra to help them out. She never even met the duo. What I’m trying to get at is that the characters were just thrown at you, and just had to go with it. Another reason it felt rushed was the dialogue. In the earlier books, the dialogue between characters seemed natural and believable. Here, however, it felt forced and at times really, really rushed. There were parts in which the dialogue didn’t even seem to try to match up to what was happening and going on. It made everything felt like it was chaotic.
2) “Mysterious Backgrounds.” This is something that, after a while, really got to me and severely annoyed me. You have two new characters; Sharlarra and Thorn. Two elves. Simple enough right? Wrong. What goes on is that they are some “sub-race” of elves (sort of like how there are moon elves, drow, sea elves, etc.). This isn’t a problem really, but their mysterious backgrounds get strung out throughout the story and you soon feel very, very annoyed and just uninterested. With Thorn, nothing seems to really add up. *Warning Spoiler ahead* Thorn is basically portrayed as Eilistraee’s champion, a non-drow follower who has “tall, with moon-white skin and sleek ebony hair. …Her eyes were a strange shade of golden green, and a streak of silver hair” (page 28). So you are thinking that she sounds like a fairly typical elf. While later this build up of mystery with Thorn, and how Liriel has to be unconscious when being transported into “her people’s land” to avoid Lloth corrupting it. This made me thing she was a star elf (a really rare and almost unheard of elf). But no. !!!SPOILER!!! She’s a lythari, which are elves that can transform into wolves (they are not werewolves, however). Sort of is a let down really. She was really built up as a huge mystery to what she is and it turns out she’s just a lythari elf. With Sharlarra, it’s pretty much the same case. However, you never really learn what kind of elf she is a HUGE let down. It’s hard to explain why I think it’s a let down but after the bigger build up with this character (more so then with Thorn), not finding out what she is just doesn’t feel right. I don’t even think she knows what she is. Oh wait, that’s right. She doesn’t know. So where is the fun in that mystery?
3) Anti-Climatic. The whole huge battle at the end was just a let down. Things happened to fast to understand what was going on. It was as though, one moment you were in a circle of people, the next you are for some reason calling ravens and Eilistraee followers, then you were summoning some gigantic woodland creature. It just doesn’t make sense and it really was a head ache inducing moment. Then you have the lackluster final battles, yet again. The biggest disappointment is with Brindlor, a deathsinger (More on him later), and what happens to him. I felt cheated. Especially when you thought that he was just there to observe. Basically, the ending just fell flat in my opinion.

1) Brindlor. Oh boy was he an interesting character. Now, a deathsinger is a drow bard that comprising songs upon a person’s death. The Dragon Horde merchants, now under the command of Gorlist, have changed tactics to find and kill Liriel, which Gorlist is utterly obsessed over. So Gorlist hires Brindlor to tell of their triumph and Liriel’s death. However, the scenes he is in really reminds me of another famous drow, Jarlaxle. His personality is the main reason for this comparison. He is humorous and at the same time practical and pragmatic like Jarlaxle is. Brindlor really does steal the show early on and does so up until the “climax.”
2) Fyodor. The story seemed to revolve more about Fyodor this time than anything else. You get more background as to way he was “cast out” of Rashemen and he really grows in this story more so than I felt he did in the earlier books. You really got to see how much he cares, trusts, and respects Liriel and at times it was touching and wonderful. Then seeing how he acted upon returning to his family and friends was something special and unique as well. There were some deep moments about him. It really was nice to get more information and development on the other main character in the story.
3) The Ending. There are two things I liked about this ending. First, it was sad. You wouldn’t have expected what happened to happen but at the same time you knew it was going to happen. That’s all I’m really going to say about it. That part was wonderful. The second is the closure between Liriel and Shakti. While, at times it didn’t really make sense (at least I thought it didn’t) it felt right and perfect in its own way. I mean, I honestly thought Liriel would rip Shakti’s eyes out and bash her skull in but no, it still worked.

Side notes:
1) Brindlor= homosexual? It was subtly alluded to Brindlor being a homosexual, seeing as it mentioned that he didn’t like being in the company of women. First, before anyone gets mad at me… I think this was wonderful. I would have never expected there to be a homosexual character in a Forgotten Realm novel and then bam, there is one. And it really worked. It made the character so much better in a way that I can’t really explain.
2) The ghost horse. I have honestly no idea… Anyone care to enlighten me about this utterly crazy turn of the story?
3) The HORRIBLE image of Liriel on the cover. I mentioned this in the Tangled Webs review. It’s awful. She looks… scary and just so very unattractive. Liriel is really thought to be one of the most beautiful drow around and this is the best Todd Lockwood could do? Before anyone says anything, I do like his work. He really does do a great job with his artwork, but here, it’s just a failure. Why couldn’t he just stick with the Tangled Webs version of Liriel?

Overall: 2/5

Final Thoughts:
The whole story was a huge drop off of how the first two in this series was told. The whole rushed feeling of the story and the utter confusion this caused made it hard for me to read the first time I read it. It was however, easier to read it this time through, but still it was just confusing. It just didn’t have the spirit and fun the first two had.

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