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Literature / Sun Wolf and Starhawk
aka: The Ladies Of Mandrigyn

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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.
  • Amputation Stops Spread: At the climax of The Ladies of Mandrigyn, Sun Wolf is attacked by a magical creature that burrows through people's eyes into their brains, and tears his own eye out to save himself.
  • Anti-Hero: "Good" characters in this series tend to be either this or broken cuties.
  • 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:
    • In the first book, Sheera's husband is revealed to have collaborated with Altiokis and sold out the rebels. No wonder Sheera...ahem, mulled his wine herself one night.
    • Some of the victims in the second book fully deserved what happened to them. Nanciormis is probably the most blatant example.
  • Battle Couple:
    • Sun Wolf and Starhawk, after the first novel.
    • Denga Rey and Amber Eyes.
  • Big Bad:
    • Altiokis in the first book.
    • Nanciormis in the second book.
    • Purcell in the third book.
  • Bi the Way: By the end of the first book, it's clear that Amber Eyes reciprocates Denga Rey's affections.
  • Big Beautiful Man: Nanciormis in The Witches of Wenshar is a Long-Haired Pretty Boy gone to seed; debauchery and considerable weight gain haven't ruined his looks. Too bad he's a skeevy, conniving Jerkass who's arguably the main antagonist of the piece, and who ultimately gets his in the end.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • The second book is swimming in them. Anshebbeth comes off as petty and grating, but generally harmless. Nanciormis is initially affable (although the façade drops even before he's revealed as the Arc Villain), if self-absorbed and thoughtless. Incarsyn is stated to be one—and definitely has some significant character flaws (such as casual sexism, smarminess, and not being the sharpest blade in the armory) which suggest that Tazey really was better off out of it—but it's possible that Nanciormis was just smearing him.
    • In the third book, Purcell initially seems to be nothing but a prissy little functionary; thanks to his distraction spell, no one recognizes the similarly fussy and nebbishy drug dealer "Sugarman" as him, either.
  • 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.
  • Cool Old Lady: Lady Wrinshardin, in the first book, supports the rebellion. Additionally, she's wry, snarky, spry enough to still be an avid horsewoman, and completely unintimidated by Sheera's (admittedly still very raw) troops (or even by Sun Wolf).
  • Dirty Old Woman: Nexué from the second book.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: When Anshebbeth finally loses her patience with Nanciormis, the demons drawn to her malice attack him and more-or-less flay him alive...and when she finally manages to call them off, they turn on her instead. As for Nanciormis, his subordinates leave him to bleed out.
  • 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:
    • Altiokis in the first book.
    • Nanciormis in the second.
  • 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:
    • In the first book, Altiokis is turned into a Nuuwa by his own Hole.
    • 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.
  • Kidnapped by 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.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Kaletha and her magic teachings.
  • Love Makes You Crazy/Love Makes You Evil: Anshebbeth is commanding the demons out of love for the indifferent and manipulative Nanciormis.
  • 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.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Each book contains a female 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.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Altiokis has a nasty habit of turning people into blind, slavering, mindlessly vicious freaks. The canon term for the process's victims is "nuuwa", and that's all that they're ever called.
  • 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 Wolf 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.
  • 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 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 anzid.
  • 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. While King Tarrin promises to reverse the order once the situation stabilizes again, Sun Wolf and Starhawk are not holding their breath.
  • Villainous Glutton: Altiokis.
  • Weaksauce Weakness:
    • In the first book, is explained that the "Holes" from which the gaums are spawned are destroyed by sunlight.
    • In the second book, is revealed that sandstorms will dispel demons.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sheera Galernas is willing to kidnap and utilize a Poison-and-Cure Gambit in order to recruit an armsmaster for her rebel army. It's later revealed that she assassinated her husband for selling out.

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


Example of: