The Ladies of Mandrigyn - Barbara Hambly A solid fantasy novel, if a bit more intense than I like. The author wouldn’t leave the hero alone, always tossing one problem after another at him, all of them causing him pain. The tension level is so high all the time, with no respite, that eventually I got tired of it. I felt so sorry for the hero that I decided to drop the rating from my original estimation of 4 stars down to 3, but it’s a purely subjective evaluation. Objectively, the writing is good, and the story flows easily.
Sun Wolf is a mercenary captain. When the women of Mandrigyn want to hire his troops to liberate their city and their men from an evil wizard, he refuses. He doesn’t wish to risk his soldiers in a futile confrontation against magic. But the women wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. They abduct him, poison him, and give him a choice: either he trains them to fight the wizard and be given an antidote or he dies.
Wolf’s trusted lieutenant Starhawk is a woman in love with her commander, even though he doesn’t suspect her love, and even she herself wouldn’t acknowledge her secret yearning. When she discovers that he has vanished, she goes after him, and her search takes her across a continent and brings her in contact with many different people. She experiences intimately the peaceful lives of merchants and tradesmen, the lives she only knew before from the other side – as a soldier who killed them.
By the end of the novel, everyone learns something. Starhawk learns to appreciate peace. She doesn’t want to wage war anymore. She also learns her heart’s desire. Starhawk’s line in this novel is romantic – a woman climbing out of her tight cocoon of a soldier.
The aristocratic ladies of Mandrigyn learn to fight.
And the Wolf, the hero of the tale – what does he learn? Here I sigh and shake my head. I like the guy, but he doesn’t seem believable. He is just too nice to be true.
In the beginning, he is portrayed as a keen, fear-inspiring general, ruthless and erudite, able to make hundreds of his mercenaries obey his iron will. But he accepts his defeat and enslavement by the ladies of Mandrigyn meekly enough. Instead of sabotaging their schemes or employing some stratagems to escape (like kidnapping a child of one of the ladies and holding her in exchange for his life and freedom – even I could think of that) he accedes to their demands and teaches them to kill their enemies. When he is betrayed, twice, no less, he doesn’t for a moment consider any revenge upon his betrayer. He is as gentle as a lamb, despite his foul language and his abilities with weapons. He is supposed to be a hardened mercenary but he behaves like a tamed philosopher. I don’t believe it.
Even though the Wolf is not what I thought, he is still a fascinating fellow, strong and courageous, with a kind of rough, unpolished charm. The only thing that puts me off is that the author calls him a barbarian. I dislike the word, especially after I read [b:Conan the Barbarian|6610620|Conan the Barbarian|Robert E. Howard|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320516780s/6610620.jpg|6804590]. It means nothing, and the Wolf is definitely not a barbarian. He is very intelligent and well-behaved, despite his sharp tongue.
On the whole, the book was okay. I enjoyed reading it and I might read the sequel; it’s already on my Kindle. I want to know what happens to the Wolf next.