Wolf Wing is the fourth and final book in the Claidi Journals, a quartet of books that follow a young heroine’s journey from slavery to freedom — and her untangling of the many mysteries and conspiracies around her — all in diary form. After many adventures in the first three books, Claidi is finally reunited with her beloved Argul, and together they plan their marriage and the return to Claidi’s previous home, the House, in order to release the slaves.
But once again, nothing is what it seems. On returning to the House Claidi and her new husband find that the slaves do not need their help — on the night of Claidi’s escape, the slaves overthrew their former masters and now live in relative peace and harmony. The spoilt Jade Leaf, who once threatened Claidi with a vicious whipping, is now servant to those she once bullied mercilessly. But the Old Lady Jizania Tiger, who instigated the whole uprising seems to have something more up her sleeve: calling Claidi, Argul and another slave Dengwei (who led the revolt) to her, she reveals that the famous Ironel — matriarch of the Wolf Tower — has summoned them to her home, promising to reveal more information concerning the enigmas surrounding them.
Once there, readers are treated to a reunion, as major characters from all the previous books turn up: Nemian, Winter Raven, Venn and Ngarbo arrive in order to hear Ironel’s news. And the news she reveals is shocking: Venn and Argul’s mother, the famous sorceress Ustareth that has meddled in these characters lives from beyond the grave with her plans and charms, is in fact alive. Astonished, these characters (with the exception of Nemian) decide to travel in Yinyay (the moving tower) to her land in order to confront her…
For the final book in the series, it’s a satisfactory conclusion — resolving the conflicts of all the main characters and finally introducing us to the figure that’s been behind all their confusion and grief. Tanith Lee continues to create vivid, interesting and beautiful settings as well as intrigue in the form of the (quite spooky) moving statues and the way in which all six characters separately approach Ustareth’s citadel. The diary entries are once more realistic, thoughtful and poignant. We can tell Claidi has grown as a character when by comparing her writing in Wolf Tower — the changes were never obvious, but are definitely there.
Throughout the entire series I was often frustrated with the lack of coherence and grandeur in the plots concerning Claidi and those around her: the “bad-guys” do what they do out of pettiness, personal gain and family issues. My grievances that these plots weren’t clearly drawn out or explained remain, but my feelings on the fact that the reasons behind the ongoing “mystery” were somewhat shallow have changed. Tanith Lee is a wonderful author, and I have to admire the originality in creating a fantasy series that wasn’t about good and evil, world domination, tragic romances or a myriad of fantasy races. Wolf Wing is simply about a young girl who is caught up in the selfish designs of others. Once you understand this, I think you’ll be able to appreciate these books better.
Which is not to say these four books are without their flaws — they can get quite confusing at times and it’s tricky keeping track of all the clues and mysteries that Lee gives us, and some of the revelations (concerning Ustareth’s decisions and Claidi’s powers) at the end didn’t seem to make much sense. I also dislike the way they are divided into separate volumes — it makes it immensely difficult to track down all the books in order to get the complete story (and rest assured, you cannot read them out of order). The Claidi quartet does not have my highest recommendation — if you have too much trouble understanding or even finding these books, then don’t get too worked up. However if you want a light, but interesting read, then you could do worse than Wolf Tower, Wolf Star, Wolf Queen and Wolf Wing.