|Elfquest: Huntress. Written by Joellyn Auklandus and Wendy and Richard Pini. Illustrated by Steve Blevins, Craig Taillefer, and Terry Beatty. Poughkeepsie, NY: Warp Graphics, 1999. 1v. (unpaged). (Elfquest Reader's Collection, Book 11a). $11.95. ISBN 0-936861-46-0.|
With more horrible news from the Palace War resonating among the elves, Skywise, Dewshine, and Pike go on a ride-out to see what's what. Something seems to be agitating the game--and something seems to be driving it toward Howling Rock. The scouting party finds out quickly enough when they stumble on a passle of mutated creatures and are forced to fight them. The creatures ignore Skywise, so he is able to kill them after the others are incapacitated. The other elves fetch the wounded, and Leetah heals them.
Skywise is convinced that Teir is behind it all, and Ember decides to find out once and for all. She rides off to confront him alone. (At the same time, Skywise and Timmain accompany Aroree back to the human city, as Timmain is needed to help put the Palace together again.) Dodging mutated monsters, Ember comes across Teir, who is distracted by someone calling inside his head. He doesn't seem to be responsible for the new monsters; indeed, when they are attacked and Ember is hurt, he defends her.
As Teir carries Ember back to the Holt, Leetah and Nightfall intercept him. They automatically assume he's responsible for her injuries, and, after bringing Ember back from the precipice, they warn Teir not to follow them. Teir isn't so easily discouraged, though, and follows at a distance. When more shapechanged monsters arrive, Teir makes them attack one another, to prove that he's on the Wolfriders' side. However, in doing so he opens himself up to the voice that's been calling him, and he collapses. Leetah goes to him "to learn [his] heart" and mentally discovers the horrible, intelligent mutated bear--created by Winnowill, as were all of the other monsters--that is trying to feed off Teir's powers. At last accepting his innocence in the matter of the mutated beasts, the Wolfriders bring him into the Holt and make him comfortable. Leetah must keep him asleep, though, to protect him from his enemy.
Soon the Holt is surrounded by many monsters, led by the mutated bear, who demands Teir and threatens slaughter if the loner is not delivered. Ember makes the painful decision to sacrifice Teir to save the tribe. They strap the sleeping elf to a litter, and Dewshine, riding her wolf-friend Longshanks, races down to deposit the body among the monsters. Of course, the monsters have no intention of letting her leave, and she barely escapes. Longshanks is killed in his valiant attempt to get her back, and she is bitten by poisonous snakes, but Scouter arrives to pull her to safety, and Leetah is able to purge her veins of the poison.
The mutated bear easily overwhelms Teir's mind and joins with him. It broadcasts its dreadful intent: it wants the death of all wolf-blooded elves. The monsters attack! The Wolfriders fight ferociously, but the odds are overwhelming. There is one slim chance, however: Leetah has the same sort of magic as Winnowill, and the monsters implicitly trust her. Can she overcome her horror of killing to save her tribe? And what will be the consequences for Teir if she succeeds?
Unfortunately, they're being fattened up at the expense of some of the other characters. Moonshade, Redlance, and Nightfall are almost non-presences. (So much for Ember's increased reliance on Moonshade.) Leetah comes off as curiously devoid of personality, the weary healer who mourns or heals or interprets magic but has little to say on other subjects.
The art is superior to that in Legacy (though again, Moonshade always looks wrong, and neither Dewshine nor Leetah are all that hot either). The monsters are appropriately gruesome--moreso than the Peace Hounds of Ascent and Reunion--and the monster-dream sequences, with Winnowill assuming various forms, are quite nice. I like the way Teir's magic is depicted, as a sort of twinkling smoke that swirls around him. This is also one of the few Elfquest titles where when something is killed, there's actually a bit of gore (though as usual, if one of the elves or wolves is hurt, you don't see much damage, which is fine with me).
However, some poor choices were made at times. For example, at the end, when the Palace arrives, comes this sequence: Moonshade racing toward the Palace with Leetah in the background; a close-up of Leetah's face; Moonshade almost in Strongbow's arms; a long shot of them embracing while Leetah looks at the shadowed Cutter. The sudden cut to Leetah's face completely punctures the powerful moment that should have resulted from the reunion of Moonshade and Strongbow, and the long shot of their embrace further marginalizes them. Even Pike and Krim were allowed more of a "public" display! And the various scenes when the Wolfriders learn of one of the Palace Quest warrriors' deaths are too melodramatic, with some of the elves clapping their hands to their faces in the classic "Home Alone" pose or rushing into each other's arms.
Despite these flaws, Huntress is a worthy addition to the Elfquest canon. Though it and its related books are the 11th segment of the series, purchase Ascent and Reunion first--the Holt Quest titles are generally subordinate to the Palace Quest ones. (Also, the third in the series, Wild Hunt, takes place a dozen years after the Palace Quest.)
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