Welcome to Eldraine—a storybook land of castles and cauldrons, of chivalrous knights and trickster faeries. But like the devious creatures and beguiling magic that lurk among the shadows, this world is not all that it seems. Join the five courts of the Realm on an epic adventure for honor and glory, or venture a darker path into the mysterious Wilds. Which path will you choose?
«The Wildered Quest», by Kate Elliott, serves as an introductory story to Throne of Eldraine. It focuses on Rowan Kenrith, whose story is “about going on a quest and getting lost—maybe not physically lost so much as in other ways,” Elliott said during the book’s announcement. If you haven’t read it yet and are planning to do so, you should stop reading here.
SPOILERS BELOW THIS LINE
The whole Eldraine place is broadly divided into two regions. There is the Wilds, where the magical creatures live in untamed landscapes, and there is the Realm, divided into five different Knightly Courts (each one aligned to each one of the colors of Magic). These five courts are Ardenvale (which values loyalty), Vantress (which values knowledge), Locthwain (which values persistence), Embereth (which values courage) and Garenbrig (which values strength).
The current era is a period of relative peace with all five courts under the rule of the High King. In the Wilds, there are elves and faeries which do not acknowledge his authority, but still respect the division between the Realm and the Wilds… until Oko shows up. Oko is a shapeshifting planeswalker, and as the story begins, he is being attacked by Garruk Wildspeaker (Garruk is suffering under a curse put upon him by Liliana Vess and her Chain Veil, which is a very long story). Oko decides Garruk would make a great bodyguard, so he mesmerizes him and renames him «Dog».
The main characters of the story, though, are Will and Rowan Kenrith, son and daughter of the High King, who’s about to set out on The Grand Procession, some sort of tour around all the courts in Eldraine.
They start their adventures at Castle Ardenvale, and while everyone is getting ready, Will has wandered off and Rowan is frantically looking for him because she doesn’t want to blow her chance to get out of the castle. She finds him, looking at a birdbath, where he is getting a vision in the frozen water of the bath. What they both see is a series of images that don’t make sense for them. Because of this, they miss the departure of the Grand Procession, so they decide to sneak out of the castle and catch up with everyone by taking a shortcut through the Wilds.
On their way, they get attacked by redcaps, fierce little creatures with sharp teeth and red hair. Rowan and Will try to deal with them until Oko and Garruk show up. As the first tries to charm Rowan, Garruk cleans the floor. Will becomes suspicious, and as he’s scared of Garruk, Oko orders him “by no means harm these two”. After getting some information about how Eldraine works, Oko and Garruk help Rowan and Will reach the Grand Procession.
The twins set up their tents and get dinner and talk about their day as we meet Titus, a young knight with red hair, and Cerise, a healer who rides a unicorn named Sophos. Before the night ends, the King comes walking by with a knight named Cado, who is also his best friend. After some small talk, the King and Cado leave, but this last one comes back asking if anyone has seen the High King. One scar-noticing later, Will realizes the King was walking next to someone impersonating his best friend. When they hear a very dramatic (and conveniently-timed) scream not that far away, Titus, Cerise, Rowan, Will and Cado meet the end of the first part of the book.
The second part, «Winter», starts three months after that night. Queen Linden has been ruling in the absence of the King as the creatures from the Wilds are making their move in order to overcome the realm. As they are now eighteen, which means old enough to quest on their own, Rowan and Will decide to search for their missing father. As they get ready to embark on their quest, the Queen confesses she’s not her mother. Long story short, the King fell in love with another woman, who gave birth to the twins, but then later died in the Wilds, and Linden raised them as her own. The Queen is truly worried about the twins, but since she can’t stop them, she only asks them to take some companions in Cado, Titus and Cerise.
Their first stop is Castle Vantress, home to a magical mirror. Before they arrive, though, and as this is a quest and quests have danger and random encounters, they face an ogre at a nearby village. Right after defeating it, a group of knights arrive on the scene, including loremage Elowen. She is not only a hex magic specialist, but also friend of Cado. She agrees to escort them, since it’s on her way. As soon as they get into the castle, they head underwater, which is where the Mirror is. Indrelon, that’s his name, can talk and offers knowledge in exchange for secrets. Will recreates the vision he got before missing the Grand Procession, which the Mirror gladly accepts. Will demands to know what happened to his father, so Indrelon shows him a clearing in a dark forest they immediately recognize as being part of the Wilds. They can see the sun rising just between a pair of ivory obelisks, and finally, a stag. The Mirror ends the vision stating that they will find their father by finding the stag.
After getting out of the water-filling chamber, Elowen explains she recognized the obelisks, and that the easiest way to reach them is heading to Castle Garenbrig, where they can use the Great Henge to teleport themselves. When they arrive, they find that Castle Locthwain is also there, as it is a flying castle on visit for the Mid Winter celebrations.
Will and Rowan talk about rumors they’ve heard regarding Queen Ayara, leader of the Locthwain and we learn she’s an elf. The King of Garenbrig agrees to let Will and Rowan and everyone through the portal but he warns them it only stays open for two days, and then won’t reopen for another year. The party goes through the portal and into the Wilds, and this being a quest and quests being full of danger and not-so-random encounters, they get attacked almost immediately by a lich knight. Titus sacrifices himself so the rest can escape over a bridge when a stag appears out of nowhere, charges into the lich and kills it. Before they can react, the stag follows a whistling sound and the group starts a chase, getting separated from one another.
The twins are the ones who find a secret covenant they overhear: Queen Ayara is addressing the elves of the Wilds, who want to attack the Realm seizing the opportunity of having their King missing. Ayara is loyal to the King and refuses to take part of this betrayal. The twins resume their hunt for the stag but instead run into Oko. The rest of the party also arrives except for Cerise. Elowen doesn’t trust Oko, who, enraged that someone isn’t falling for his charms, turns Elowen into a bird. Witnessing that, Will deduces that the stag must be his father, the High King, transformed using Oko’s shapeshifting magic.
Oko takes the stag and runs off, trapping the whole party within magical vines. Will and Rowan realize Oko plans to take their father to the Mid Winter hunt and somehow use his death to start a war between the Realm and the Wilds. Cerise shows up and tries to help Garruk by removing the hedron that is embedded in his shoulder, figuring out it was the source of the curse, but she had it wrong, so Garruk goes wild and savage. He kills Cado’s griffin and injures Cerise, but can’t harm the twins, as Oko’s order from earlier in Part One is still on effect.
As the story is getting close to finish, the twins find Garruk in the middle of a river being attacked by merfolk, Rowan gets attacked by a horrible monster on a bridge as she tries to cross the river, Garruk saves her from the monster, Will goes into the water to try and save Garruk, they all nearly drown but they notice a giant cauldron in the water which turns out to be the Cauldron of Eternity. This magic artifact, which belongs to Queen Araya, removes the curse from Garruk, who pledges to help Will and Rowan save their father.
When the twins can find the stag, they stand between it and the hunters preying for it, begging them not to kill it. As they do, Queen Linden and her knights show up in the griffons, driven by Elowen, who flew back all the way to the realm to sound the alarm. A fight ensues and while everyone is attacking or defending the stag, Queen Araya emerges from the back and fires an arrow straight into it, killing it. Except it wasn’t Araya: it was Oko. After a short and frenetic pursuit, he can only planeswalk away in order to escape.
Queen Linden lets the elves complete their Mid Winter ritual and drain what’s left in the stag’s blood and upon his death, Oko’s magic is undone, so he turns back into the High King. As this happens, we learn that almost twenty years ago, Linden and Algenus Kenrith were given quests by the Questing Beast along with a magical sword to help them earn knighthood in all five courts of the realm. Algenus managed to earned them all, but Linden stopped before the last one. Why? Because the man she fell in love with was bespelled by a witch. This witch made Kenrith fall in love with her, and get her pregnant with twins., which she then kills, planning to use their pure child-blood to fill a well that she would then drink from and obtain immortality. Linden arrives just after the kids are killed, kisses Algenus breaking the witch’s spell because it’s one of those “true love kisses” and he kills the witch in pain and rage. Linden then uses the magic in her sword to bring the twins back to life. Having used her magic sword power, she doesn’t want to risk dying on the fifth one, deciding to end her quest and raise the children. Algenus goes off and achieves all five knighthoods, without using his magical sword at all, because it’s still in the well at the witch’s cottage, where this whole scene is happening.
As she explains all this, she reaches into the well and pulls out King Kenrith’s old sword, using it to bring him back from the death. The twins are visibly upset as they learn they were born under a witch’s curse and that their lives are now bonded together since they were reborn under the magic of a single sword. This causes their spark to ignite and they planeswalk away. Garruk announces he will watch over them and help keep them safe because he owes them his life.
And that’s The End.
The Wildered Quill
What did we like the most and the least about this novel? Many and just a few, respectively. First and foremost, it’s a high/fantasy adventure that exudes Dungeons & Dragons in twenty levels. I am SO totally converting this into my next Eberron campaign! Even more than the story, characters are truly relatable; I particularly love Oko’s wild temper and the twins relationship. Oko’s plan seems very convoluted, but it’s never clear if it’s actually a plan or something he’s just doing on the fly, and I think it’s the second. I also liked how Kate Elliott plays with your expectations, sometimes following what you think (Oko’s instruction not to harm the twins, for example) and some others play directly against what you suspect based on the same archetypes (the Queen not being the classic evil stepmother or Araya not being a traitor), even the very subtle hint of Will being bisexual as he thinks about Titus. I guess the only details I don’t like are how the Kind didn’t notice his best friend hasn’t his best friend after establishing how good he is at noticing things, and how people dare to think less of Queen Linden because she has completed only four quests and not the whole five in a world where most people have none. Both these details are totally forgivable in exchange for a truly momentous and high-paced adventure that is, as I said, crying to get converted into a D&D campaign.
Have you read «The Wildered Quest» already? Are you happily ever after?