For a book published in 1997, Owlflight still creates a captivating story. Mercedes Lackey is a grand storyteller and her characters seem to leap off the page. It is the first book in the three books following the adventures of Darian Firkin.
Darian's parents were fur trappers, specializing in the creatures changed by the recent mage storms. The furs they brought in were spectacular and were often traded for food and supplies. Darian often went with them, a welcome pair of hands when needed and a set of watchful eyes when his parents were too tired to tend to the camp. But during a bad winter they disappeared, leaving Darian in the care of Errold's Grove.
Errold's Grove had long disapproved of Darian's parents, fearing they'd bring some monster down on the village. So as soon as they were sure that the Firkins weren't coming back, they forced Darian to apprentice with the village mage, Justyn. They gave Justyn very little respect as his power was very minimal.
Darian, used to the freedom of the forest, was very bitter over it. He'd been told he has the mage gift but had no desire to learn. Instead, he wanted to work long enough to get supplies and then take his chances as a trapper like his parents. Darian often tried to avoid lessons and would run off to the forest as often as he could.
When barbarians attack Errold's Grove, Darian sees his teacher as he kills himself to ignite a fire to stop the army from crossing the bridge into the village. As they cross the ford, Darian turns and runs to the forest. He is caught by a barbarian who had been flanking the village to catch those who were trying to escape. Darian fears that he is facing his death or worse when a chance to escape comes in the form of the Tayledras scout Snowfire.
Darian is taken in by the small band of Tayledras – also called Hawkbrothers – who are there to shape magic back into what it once was. He is adopted by them, but his thoughts often turn to the villagers. One day he finds himself on a bluff looking over the village and sees them enslaved by the barbarians he escaped.
Once again he turns to the Tayledras, who devise a plan to rescue the villagers. Darian leads them to the village where he hides in the barn as the Tayledras slip out to fight what guards are there to free the people. Darian watches as lights flash and hears the sound of battle as his new friends are attacked.
The mage that came with them comes into the barn to use his magic to unleash a terror onto his unsuspecting friends. Darian, fearing their deaths, attacks the mage. With the help of the massive owl Huur, partnered to his recently adopted older brother, he kills the mage. The villagers are freed.
When the local lord comes to Errold's Grove the next day, Darian makes an offer to the people of Errold's Grove. He is a mage, and now understands the need to learn to control his power. He leaves with the Tayledras, but vows to return in time to set up a place outside the village for people to come to resolve distances and to take up a place to protect the village. As a result of this decision, he gains the young eagle-owl Kuari.