Now this was one hell of a nostalgic book to re-read. Wild Magic was a book that I first bought while I was in high school, and it has been revisited enough that the front cover is almost more crease than card at this point. After the intense and not wholly pleasant experience that was reading Stalkers, I needed something familiar.
Following the deaths of her mother and grandfather at the hands of bandits, Daine Sarrasri decides to make a fresh start in the country of Tortall. Signing up with Onua, horse trainer for the elite soldiers known as the Riders, she soon finds that what she always assumed was a knack for dealing with animals may in fact be a magical talent known as Wild Magic. With supernatural creatures returning to Tortall and the threat of war from overseas, Daine must master her newly discovered abilities and confront the possibility of madness if she wants to protect her new friends.
I've had Wild Magic in my collection for around 10 years now and I've re-read it multiple times within that decade, so I'm hardly going to write a negative review of this. Daine is a wonderful main protagonist, both headstrong and willing to speak her mind, whilst still retaining the kind of uncertainty and lack of confidence that a lot of girls her age exhibit. It's nice that she just kind of falls into the whole role of hero, as opposed to actively seeking it like a lot of protagonists do. All she's trying to do is get by on her own and so her acquisition of power feels more like the kind of self-improvement that you naturally go through as you grow and mature.
Since animals are a big part of this particular series, I think it would make sense to briefly mention how they are depicted. There's very much an emphasis on people and creatures acting according to their inherent nature, and that comes out very well with the animals that turn up. There's a battle scene towards the end of the novel, where Daine is given a warning about encroaching enemies by a collection of bats, but when the other characters ask her to get some more precise reconnaissance she opts for consulting with owls, who are less naturally skittish. There's enough detail to make the animals seem intelligent in their own ways, but not to the point where they could be mistaken for human or supernatural characters. The exception to this is Cloud, Daine's mare, but then the two of them have been together long enough that Daine's magic has made a significant impact on the horse's mind. And Cloud is delightfully sarcastic and stubborn, so I'm not especially bothered by her unusually human-like intelligence.
Wild Magic is one of those books that I will always go back to when I want to read something comforting and entertaining. The characters are charming and likeable, the animals are portrayed really well, and it makes a great set-up for further adventures with Daine. 4.5/5
Next review: Storm Front by Jim Butcher