|Elfquest: Legacy. Written by Wendi Lee, Joellyn Auklandus, and [Richard Pini]. Illustrated by various. 1v. (unpaged). (Elfquest Reader's Collection, v.11). $11.95. ISBN 0-936861-45-2.|
Having been charged with preserving the Wolfriders while the majority of them go off to fight for the Palace in Ascent and Reunion, newly fledged chief Ember and her small bandLeetah, Skywise, Pike, Moonshade, Redlance, Nightfall, Dewshine, Scouter, and pregnant Tyleet, along with their respective wolvesembark on a quest for a new Holt. At first, every decision is a test for Ember, as she struggles to determine which direction to take and how to find shelter in the open plains through which the band is traveling. To make matters worse, Moonshade freely expresses her doubts about and displeasure over Embers choices. It takes a series of dangerous encounters and a bout of insect-induced hallucination for Ember to understand and deal with Moonshades distress. Embers first chance to really shine comes when a period of bad hunting for the elves leads her to consider a source of food that they would have otherwise overlooked: mice.
Finally, the small band arrives at an island of rock in the ocean of grass. Though it had been inhabited, it seems deserted now, and the many caves and proximity to water make it a serious candidate for the new Holt. The discovery of a small spire shaped like a howling wolf settles the Wolfriders minds. However, as they start to move in, they are approached by a strange elf who can make himself invisible to the Wolfriders senses. He is Teir, beast-friend and loner who has lived among the rocks for many years with only animals to keep him company. Most of the Wolfriders take to him immediately; only Skywise is suspicious and wary. Teir stays distant from the little tribe at first, but gradually he begins to interact with them. Indeed, he and Ember are attracted to one another, though neither admits it. More urgently, the peaceful settling-in process is disturbed when a horribly mutated wolf attacks the Wolfriders during a hunt.
The story continues in Huntress.
So was my anticipation warranted in Legacy? Not to the extent I had hoped. After the high excitement of the war against Gromuhl Djun, the Holt quest seemedwell, not trivial, but less compelling. The few serious encounters that the elves had seemed more like throwaways than plot-advancing momentssmall battles to remind us that yeah, life is dangerous for the elves. Not that I expect the Wolfriders to be engaged in combat constantly (heaven forfend!), but I would have liked to have seen incidents that really affected their quest. For example, the entire story that Pike told about the Recognition between Hummer and Buckthorn was pleasant enough, but it had little to do with the larger story of the Holt Quest. In general, the relatively quiet events of Legacy seem to be an unnecessarily long set-up for the much more interesting plot in Huntress.
Another thing that bugged me was the treatment of Moonshade. She just didnt seem right. Yes, shes separated from Strongbow (of all the elves, their bond is probably the deepest), and yes, she thinks Ember is too inexperienced to be a chief, so she has a right to be upset and unreasonable, but she comes off as whiny and, dare I say it, even a little stupid. (At one point she says Strongbows soul name out loudeven though she was hallucinating at that moment, I cant believe that she would be careless enough to do that.) Moreover, the resolution of her troubles with Ember seems too rapid, too pat. Just because Ember starts directing a few more queries at her shouldnt soothe her fears about the untried chieftess. (Indeed, after the mouse hunt, Moonshade seems to be consulted even less than before.) The trouble could be that Moonshade has always been one of the subtlest of the Wolfriders, with few overt rough edges or distinct personality traits, and therefore the hardest for someone besides the Pinis to properly characterize.
Moonshades subtle personality is also evident in her appearance, and this is where the book is weakest: the art. The first few chapters are unusually clumsy. The later chapters are better, but none of the artists (a full five are credited, though not in the individual chapters) gets Moonshade right at all. In many cases I would turn to a page where she was depicted and wonder Now, who is that? before puzzling it out. Also, why the heck was this particular cover used for this book? It looks like it should have been used on Ascent or even Shards, not here.
Listen to me whine! Well, Im used to only the best in Elfquest, and to encounter less than that is disappointing. Of course, the book isn't all bad. Teir is a terrific new character; the new setting for the Howling Rock Wolfriders is extremely picturesque; the Mouse Hunt story was a good way for Ember to really show that shes a chief; and the Hummer/Blackthorn story was a nice glimpse into the Wolfriders past, whether it furthered the larger story or not. So I recommend the book as part of the series, with the caveat that for an Elfquest title its weak.
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