Literature / Sun Wolf and Starhawk

Sun Wolf and Starhawk are the protagonists of three novels and a short story by Barbara Hambly.

In The Ladies of Mandrigyn, the eponymous, and previously very genteel and traditional, women attempt to hire mercenary captain Sun Wolf to train them as warriors so they can rescue their men, who have been forced into slave labor by the evil wizard Altiokis. When he sensibly declines to become involved, they kidnap him and force him to help them by dosing him with a slow-acting poison to which they hold the antidote. While Starhawk sets out to rescue him, Sun Wolf sets about his task, and along the way learns to unlock his own magical potential.

In the sequels, The Witches of Wenshar and The Dark Hand of Magic, Sun Wolf and Starhawk encounter dark sorceries while travelling in search of someone to train Sun Wolf in his new magical abilities.

Additionally, Starhawk is the protagonist of the short story "A Night with the Girls" in the second Chicks in Chainmail anthology.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: All over the place, most notably the titular Ladies of Mandrigyn in the first book.
  • Arranged Marriage: Tazey and Incarsyn in The Witches of Wenshar. Incarsyn calls it off when it turns out Tazey's a witch. Then, he dies.
  • Asshole Victim: Some of the victims in the second book, fully deserved what happened to them.
  • Battle Couple: Sun Wolf and Starhawk, after the first novel. Also Denga Rey and Amber Eyes.
  • Big Bad: Altiokis in the first book, Nanciorms and Purcell in the second and third novels.
  • Big Beautiful Man: Nanciormis in The Witches of Wenshar is unequivocally described as one. Too bad he's a skeevy, conniving Jerk Ass who's arguably the main antagonist of the piece, and who ultimately gets his in the end.
  • Butch Lesbian: Denga Rey, a big, rawboned, shaven-headed gladiator girl who's involved in the events of the first book in an attempt to win the heart of the courtesan Amber Eyes (it works). She's also pretty nice.
  • Clockwork Creature: The Djerkas in the third book, serving the bad guy.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Nexué from the second book.
  • Eldritch Abomination: In The Ladies of Mandrigyn, Altiokis's power source. It gets him in the end.
  • Eye Scream: What Sun Wolf has to do to himself in the climactic scene of The Ladies of Mandrigyn.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Any of the Demons' victims ends up splattered all over the place.
  • Fat Bastard and Fat Idiot: Altiokis.
  • Feet of Clay: Altiokis. The description for The Man Behind the Curtain, below, holds for this one too.
  • Heal It with Fire: Happens a few times, usually after nuuwa attacks, as they're extremely dirty.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Wizards can do this by manipulating the attention of other people. In the third book Purcell does this the whole time disguised as the camp's drug dealer.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Altiokis is turned into a Nuuwa by his own Hole and in the second book both Shebbeth and Nanciormis are torn to pieces by the crazed demons.
  • Holier Than Thou: Kaletha the White Witch has this attitude towards Sun Wolf.
  • The Jinx: The curse in the third book involves sheer bad luck on Sun Wolf's mercenaries: the provisons rot, spiders and rats invade the camp, swords rusts and siege machines break down without a cause.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Kaletha and her magic teachings.
  • Low Fantasy
  • MacGuffin Guardian: Kaletha is smart enough to use snakes of all kinds and scorpions to guard her books of magic.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: In The Ladies of Mandrigyn, the whole world fears Altiokis the Wizard King, shadowy ruler of a mighty empire, the greatest wizard the world has ever known, immortal, invincible... It turns out he's a third-rate magician who stumbled upon the Hole Between the Worlds and surviving by sheer luck in his youth; by some combination of his own nature and the mind-corroding effects of the alien power, he's become a vicious, dull-witted, infantile glutton who whiles away the centuries indulging his base appetites.
  • Oh Crap!: Altiokis, When he finds out that Sun Wolf is a Sorcerer.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Demons in this setting are incorporeal and usually harmless, though the Witches of Wenshar were said to use demons to do their bidding. As Sun Wold found out, is because they fed them with hate, lust and other dark emotions, making them dangerous.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Nuuwa were once people, before getting a "gaum" (a sort of fire dragonfly) in their eyes and brains. After the transformation they turn into flesh-eating monsters.
  • Poison-and-Cure Gambit: How the ladies secure Sun Wolf's assistance in The Ladies of Mandrigyn.
  • Refusal of the Call: When Sheera tries to hire Sun Wolf, he refuses and proceeds to wonderfully explain his reasons in three points: 1) A conquered town wouldn't be able to gather so much gold to pay him. 2) He doesn't lead wars in winter and 3) He won't risks the lives of his men against Altiokis. Sheera resorts then to plan B: poison him and take him away by force.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Sheera and Drypettis had one in their schoolgirl days in The Ladies of Mandrigyn. Sheera got over it, although she still considered Drypettis a friend. Until Drypettis went all yandere, anyhow and ends up selling Sun Wolf to Altiokis when they really need him.
  • The Scapegoat: During the events of the second book, Sun Wolf becomes one for the various murders. In the last book, Moggin.
  • The Scrappy: In-Universe example with Shebbeth in the second book: the woman is so sticky, whiny and generally unpleasant that noone really likes her. Turns out, she is the one controlling the demons.
  • The Starscream: Zane in the third book.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: The Ladies of Mandrigyn. It may also count as a subversion, as Sun Wolf explains that he'll need years to turn them into effective warriors, and his recruits are eventually pared down from 100 to less than 30 well trained women. However, at that point he has really bonded with them as their leader.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Sheera, after Sun Wolf's near death due to anzind.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: In the end of The Ladies of Mandrigyn, the council of the city actually exiles Sun Wolf for "corrupting the costumes of the city" by training the women and making them less docile.
  • Villainous Glutton: Altiokis.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: In the first book, is explained that the "Holes" from which the gaums 're spawned are destroyed by sunlight. In the second book, is revealed that sandstorms will dispel demons.
  • The Woman Behind The Man: Each book contains an example of this, including Sheera for Prince Tarrin, Illyra to her brother Incarsyn in the second book, Lady Prince Renaeka Strata to the King of Kwest Mralwe.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sheera Galernas.

Alternative Title(s): The Ladies Of Mandrigyn, The Witches Of Wenshar, The Dark Hand Of Magic