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Elfquest: Blood of Ten Chiefs. Written by Richard Pini, Andy Mangels, and Terry Collins. Illustrated by various. Poughkeepsie, NY: Warp Graphics, 1999. 1v. (unpaged). (Elfquest Reader's Collection, Book 9b). $12.95. ISBN 0-936861-68-1.


Adults, teens; mild violence

NOTE: This book collects the series Elfquest: Blood of Ten Chiefs, issues 1-7, 10, and 11.

Like Wolfrider, Blood of Ten Chiefs tells the stories of historical figures within the Wolfriders. Unlike Wolfrider, the book consists of a series of short pieces that illustrate notable incidents in Wolfrider history, not one long story. "Colors" tells of the mental struggle of Timmorn Yellow-Eyes, the half-wolf, half-elf son of Timmain, to reconcile his two halves, each with its own "song." Much later in elfin history, the young Bearclaw seeks to discover who has been stripping dreamberry bushes in "The Phantom of the Berry Patch," and discovers the trolls with whom he will have such a strange relationship later in life. We retreat into the past for a pair of stories: "Swift-Spear," the elves' fifth chief, who goes crazy when his wolf-friend is killed by humans and attempts to challenge the human chief to single combat, with predictable results from which he must be rescued. Meanwhile, his tribe, made up of pure elves and wolf-elves, is having struggles of its own, with the pure elves looking down upon their mixed-blood kin, and with Swift-Spear's sister Huntress Skyfire challenging every decision her brother makes. In "Two-Spear," the elves ultimately wipe out a human hunting party and force the remaining humans to leave the area. In his victory, Swift-Spear renames himself Two-Spear.

"Talon," set during Freefoot's chiefdom, pits the elves against the dinosaur-like swordfeet, whose thoughts prove to be intelligible to Lonebriar (later renamed Talon when he persuades the pregnant female to leave). "Tale of the Snowbeast," another story in the Two-Spear "canon," deals with Huntress Skyfire and her clever trick to scare humans away from the holt. Next, a strange little not-quite-wolf seems to call to Oakroot, son of Freefoot, in "At the Oak's Root." But though little Winterleaf eventually proves itself to the elves, did the mysterious call come from him or elsewhere? Finally, in "The Broken Circle," the High Ones long ago put a sphere into orbit around the World of Two Moons as they prepared to land (with, of course, unexpected consequences). During Cutter and Skywise's childhood, the sphere came crashing to earth and caused some of the elves in the tribe to act oddly, fall into comas, or hear a buzzing in their heads. Only Skywise hears the noise in his head as singing. Exploring the devastated area where the sphere crashed, a handful of the adults and Cutter sink into comas. Skywise must figure out how to operate the sphere, if at all, to bring everyone back.

Blood of Ten Chiefs is the first book in the series about which I am ambivalent. The stories vary in quality, coherence, and relevance. For example, I've read "Colors" several times and am still not clear why the elves gasp upon finding Timmorn in the snow. They're apparently reacting to his appearance, but, having seen him looking like that in previously published Wolfrider histories, I can't understand why. I'm also not clear on why the tribe claimed that Timmorn's daughter Rahnee died. "Talon," while interesting enough, seems to be just Typical Elf Adventure, not a major part of elfin history. And "The Broken Circle" almost seems to be violating known history, since one would assume the events that take place would linger in Skywise's memory, Now of Wolf Thought or not. (That's a hazard of writing stories that affect existing characters; you have to be very careful not to mess with events already set in stone.) At the very least, you'd think he'd keep at least one broken piece of the sky sphere.

On the other hand, the various Two-Spear/Huntress Skyfire stories deal with a significant period in Wolfrider history. Knowing that at some point Huntress ousted Two-Spear as chief, I would like very much to see more of their story, as well as more intra-tribe conflict as the two strains rub against one another. And the story about Oakroot, who would later be the chief Tanner, is both sweet and poignant.

One thing this book could have used is a table of contents. As it stands, the reader is forced to page through to find particular stories, and the stories are not always clearly separated from one another. Particularly confusing are the stories where the title page is several pages deep into the narrative--a standard comic convention that doesn't lend itself well to collection within a book. It would also have been nice to know which artist or writer was responsible for which story. Except for a couple of the stories where the original title page listed the creators and was reproduced in the book, most of the stories are "anonymous." Finally, unlike most of the other Reader's Collection titles, this one has no foreword or afterword.

I consider this that rarest of birds, a minor Elfquest title. Read/buy the various story threads first, and purchase this one as an adjunct, unless you have considerable interest in elfin history.

Buy it directly from Warp Graphics!

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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