The Guardian Herd: Stormbound, by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer, submits this review:

The Guardian Herd: Stormbound, by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. Illustrated by David McClellan; map.516KJ+W5H1L
NYC, HarperCollinsPublishers/Harper, April 2015, hardcover $16.99 ([xiii +] 299 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $8.89.

Well, this is a big surprise! The Guardian Herd: Starfire, the first book in this series, listed 32 flying and talking horses in five herds. Others were mentioned during the adventure of the colt Starfire’s maturing to the over-stallion of his own herd. The obvious assumption was that this first sequel in a promised long series would switch to another pegasus named Stormbound. Instead, The Guardian Herd: Stormbound continues directly from where the previous novel ended. Stormbound isn’t the name of a pegasus; it’s the title of the second adventure.

The Guardian Herd: Starfire ended with Starfire (a.k.a. Star), the first all-black (except for the white star on his forehead) stallion in four hundred years, reaching his first birthday without being killed, coming into his power from the Hundred Year Star; and leading his followers – mostly yearlings like himself, plus older pegasi dissatisfied with the leaderships of the existing herds – into a new River Herd. As The Guardian Herd: Stormbound opens a month later, Star is still looking for a permanent territory for his new herd, away from the five hostile older herds. He has declined to become an over-stallion and has entrusted the River Herd to the guidance of a council of six more experienced pegasi; although the council consider themselves more as advisors under his leadership.

A lone intruder coming to the new herd turns out to be Brackentail, the colt who betrayed Star and his old Sun Herd in the first novel. Instead of being welcomed by Star’s enemies, he has been banished because nobody trusts a traitor. Brackentail pleads that he believed Star would bring doom to everyone, and begs to join the new herd. None of the River Herd pegasi trust him, but Star is willing to accept that Brackentail might have been honestly mistaken, and that he should be given a second chance.

That is barely resolved when devastating news arrives. A new, particularly deadly plague has stricken one of the other herds, Snow Herd, and River Herd has just accepted several refugees from Snow Herd. Sweetroot, their medicine mare, determines that the refugees were Blue Tongue Plague carriers, and that River Herd should isolate itself. Star, conflicted, agrees that River Herd should migrate to the uninhabited northern Ice Lands for the good of all the pegasi of Anok.

While Star leads River Herd away from the other five Herds, they begin to jockey for power among themselves; while also, paranoid, each preparing to defend itself from the attack by Star that they fear the “evil black stallion” will surely unleash. Snow Herd raids Mountain Herd to repopulate itself, while Rockwing, the veteran over-stallion of Mountain Herd, plots to seize Sun Herd’s lands and to kidnap Morningleaf of River Herd, Star’s best friend, to control him. Each time that Star uses his new powers to protect a member of River Herd, they grow more frightening and uncontrollable. Star fears that he is still turning into the legendary monster that will destroy everyone, like Nightwing, the last black foal of four hundred years ago! Even his friends worry that they cannot trust his good nature any longer.

“A steady hum of starfire crackled inside his body, and Frostfire had no doubt Star could execute all of Mountain Herd as easily as he breathed.” (p. 191)

An added complication is whether Star should use his power to help them, even if he could:

 “Star balked at her words. He nudged Sweetroot out of the shelter and whispered to her. ‘I can heal his hoof.’

Sweetroot paused, thinking. Finally she said, ‘Warming a hoof is one thing, healing a dead hoof is another. The stallion must accept his fate.’

Star flinched. ‘But he’ll be crippled.’

‘I know that, but you can’t go around healing everyone.’ Sweetroot placed her wing on Star’s back, drawing him closer. ‘Where will you draw the line? Will you bring all our dead back to life? Cure old age? Fix every problem? Will you rob us of our destinies?’” (pgs. 114-115)

Well … why not? If he has the power, why not use it? Or will that lead to megalomania? Or to his herd becoming too complacent, depending on him to solve every problem?

Another complication is that Nightwing, the Destroyer from four hundred years ago, is not dead but has been awoken from his ancient sleep by Star’s gaining his power, and is coming from the other side of the world to challenge him; for there cannot be two all-powerful stallions in existence. Star must win his other battles against Rockwing and his grandson, Frostfire, before Darkwing arrives, to be able to concentrate fully upon him.

The Guardian Herd: Stormbound is a novel of desperation, betrayals, battles, and unexpected loyalties. Despite the prettiness of the graceful, soaring pegasi – Dewberry is a bay pinto mare with emerald feathers; Morningleaf is a chestnut filly with bright aqua feathers; Rockwing is a spotted silver stallion with dark blue and gray feathers; Twistwing is a red dun stallion with olive-green feathers – they do not hesitate to mutilate and kill each other. And where Starfire ended satisfactorily, Stormbound ends upon a real cliffhanger. Don’t miss the third novel in The Guardian Herd series, out soon – well, eventually.

– Fred Patten