It's a testament to the quality of the book that I was able to pick it up with no idea of the plot or background, start reading, and get a wonderful story that wound down beautifully.
As either a stand alone or the middle of the series, this is an excellent story, giving just enough background on the characters to leave you interested, without being confusing or resorting to cheesy monologues meant to bring the reader up to speed.
I should also point out that while this is definitely not a young adult novel, my first tryst with it was at the age of thirteen.
Nothing is watered down, but I enjoy the tastefulness of many scenes, it's gritty enough to bring them alive without resorting to scenes for shock value alone.
Not the most stunning book I've ever read, or especially groundbreaking, but it's held a special place for me for years, and I still get a happy glow when I close my eyes and relive it.
This novel picks up a couple months after the end of The Ladies of Mandrigyn, and if it isn't as surprising as that novel was it is no less delightful. While Starhawk has responded with her usual calm to all the changes in their fortunes, Sun Wolf is still assimilating the new needs his power places on his way of life and his new relationship with Starhawk specifically and women in general. Of course he immediately clashes with another strong-minded, aristocratic, redheaded woman, but Kaletha is very definitely not Sheera Galernas.
The Witches of Wenshar delves deeper into the magic system that Hambly has set up for this world, and if none of it rocked my world with originality, its very familiarity let Hambly continue exploring the things obviously dear to her heart: her characters and the role of women in the world. In the course of the novel, Sun Wolf goes through the same series of revelations that Starhawk went through in The Ladies of Mandrigyn when she was stuck in Pergemis with Ram & Orris and their family, and his melancholy as a result is handled with a wonderful delicacy.
This novel is actually better paced than its predecessor was; Sun Wolf and Starhawk are never separated by more than a day's ride, so the shifting between perspectives is much smoother because they are both party to the same events. There are no large battle scenes for Hambly to choreograph, the action all taking place among small bands of people or individuals, so there were never any moments when I lost track of who was doing what. And the denoument, though I could see it coming a mile a way, still drew a snicker from me. All in all, this novel was just as enjoyable as The Ladies of Mandrigyn, and that is no mean feat. I am eagerly awaiting getting my hands on a copy of the conclusion to this trilogy.
I've read all of the 'Sunwolf and Starhawk' books, and I believe this one stands well on it's own. A little fast paced for my taste but still keeps you guessing.
Second in the Unschooled Wizard series featuring Sun Wolf and Starhawk.
A prevalence of demons. Once, it was said, Wenshar had been a city of witches, summoning and controlling demons for their evil magic. Wenshar had been destroyed, and the witches were supposedly no more. But in nearby Tandieras, Kaletha claimed to have found their lost books of spells.
Sun Wolf had come there with Starhawk, hoping to learn more of magic from Kaletha. As he had discovered in Mandrigyn, a talent for wizardry without adequate training was a doubly dangerous thing. And now, despite Kaletha's claim to use only pure, white magic, he found increasing signs of evil magic and demon-controlling spells.
Now Sun Wolf stood alone in the ruins of a long-dead Wenshar. And as night fell, his wizard vision saw the demons emerge - great swarms of demons, all striving to drive or lure him to his death. Wenshar was filled with new-old evil. And it was no longer confined to ruined Wenshar!