Owl Series of Valdemar
I've just finished the Owl series: Owlflight, Owlsight & Owlknight by Mercedes Lackey, a trilogy within the saga of the Heralds of Valdemar. This is one of my go-to authors -- and series! The settings are remarkably detailed and the descriptions of bondbirds and Tayledras make me wish I lived with them.
This series follows the 13-year-old hero, Darian Firkin, after his parents - trappers by trade - have gone missing and he is left in the dubious care of the village and its close-minded inhabitants. He has also been apprenticed without his consent to the Wizard Justyn, a mage of little skill and no regard. No wonder all young Darian can think of is running away! After tragedy hits the village, he runs away out of fear and grief, and is found by the mythical Tayledras: a people who can disappear into the forest without a trace, have an innate knowledge of magic, and are bonded to a variety of specially-bred birds of prey. This intense encounter leads to unbelievable adventures!
The only criticism for me is in lack of dimension to the villains. These are far less fleshed out than Mercedes Lackey's other books of Valdemar. Also the conflict seems to be provided as a plot generator more than anything -- where the villians are all the same and the heroes win, so it reminds me of Hollywood blockbusters. You can read for the characterization of other people though. For example: meet Kel, the gryphon out to make a name for himself ... and get as many head scratches as he can! Meet also the "prickly" Healer Keisha as she develops her powers ... and meets the Tayledras at the same time! Then there is Snowfire, the scout who first runs across Darian. Another incredible character is Ayshen, lead cook, of the lizard-like people -- who's good with a knife, in a variety of ways. These are the reason I keep coming back to the books. Get away from the heat with these cool stories!