Windsinger (Darkhaven #3) by A.F.E. Smith
Windsinger is the third instalment in a highly entertaining series that has gone from strength to strength. I won’t elaborate too much from the previous two books but Smith has gradually developed a comprehensive world filled with politics and magical creatures that together prove to be a compelling combination. Each of the books has a murder mystery element to the story and Windsinger is no exception with a story that fairly quickly becomes a race against time. Please be aware that spoilers for the first two books in series may be lurking below.
Mirrorvale is an unusual country. Nestled in between two more powerful countries the only thing that really keeps the wolves from the door is the Nightshade family whose powerful shapeshifting abilities take on many forms. The family line is greatly diminished however and with only one shapeshifter currently in situ Mirrorvale sits on a knife edge. Unsurprisingly Ayla has a strong inclination to form a peace treaty and as the book begins preparations are being made to receive the Kardise ambassador. Ayla, being keen to show willing and offer the hand of friendship shrugs off the usual protocols and meets the Ambassador alone for informal discussion over a glass of the famous Taransey liquor produced in Mirrorvale. All goes well and by the end of the evening the promise of a treaty between the two countries is a real possibility, that is until the Ambassador turns up dead the following morning, clearly poisoned the evening before and with Ayla herself having poured the drinks herself. Things suddenly take a turn for the worse and contrary to peace it now seems that war between Mirrorvale and Sol Kardis seems highly probable.
What did I enjoy about Mirrorvale? Well, yet again the author manages to progress the characters and the world building heaping further layers upon those already established in books 1 and 2. There are plenty of different threads here and an element of intrigue with a much more sinister plot underlying the whole thing. Of course I don’t want to give too much away so I won’t say more about that aspect but what I really enjoyed this time round was not only that the horizons of the story branch further afield and take a look at the politics surrounding the tentative peace that exists but we also get to really see Ayla in action and it’s very impressive! In fact having finally seen Ayla make use of her true abilities it’s easy to see why the Nightshade threat was so very real and kept the threat of invasion from becoming a reality. Don’t get me wrong – Ayla has her limitations – and her enemies are becoming all too aware of that fact – but she’s still a rather spectacular beast in her shapeshifter form.
In terms of the characters we again see much more firmly established relationships. Ayla and her husband are happy. They’re married and now have children but that doesn’t stop them worrying, in fact, lets face it, it probably increases the worry. Tomas remains ever vigilant and still charges around the place trying to single handedly second guess every possible threat and he realises only too well that he can’t be everywhere but he also finally understands that he has other people surrounding him who he can rely on and trust – and, as difficult as it may be to admit it, he also has to trust Ayla to be who she needs to be in the face of danger. One of the people that Tomas relies heavily upon is the mercenary Sorrow. Sorrow finds herself in the strange position of caring about other people – primarily her partner Elisse and Elisse’s son Corus – and not surprisingly this is bringing out a, maybe not so much a soft and fluffy side, let’s say a more thoughtful and more easy to persuade side to her nature – I’m thinking the Terminator from the second movie rather than the first (not that I’m saying Sorrow is anything like a robot – to be clear – just that although she’s very single minded she can be reasoned with). I just love this character and could read more of her – she’s just refreshingly honest, a bit abrupt and totally no nonsense. Ayla, is still aloof, but I think I finally understood the necessity for her being so – especially when she finds herself on the war front commanding an army and watching people die!
It’s difficult to write too much more without really spoiling the plot. There is a strong intrigue running through this story and one that threatens Mirrorvale in the worst possible way. I don’t want to spoil that for other readers so my lips are sealed. Other than to say that this is another fast paced, well written story with plenty going on to keep the reader entertained and with characters that I’ve really become attached to. Well done Ms Smith for yet another very firm instalment to this series.
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.