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A Song of Ice and Fire meets Earthsea in this highly original and exciting novel set in the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya, an archipelago of bitterly cold islands where flying ships soar on dangerous winds. The Winds of Khalakovo is awesome epic fantasy with a Russian Czarist slant. The narrator nails it and made the prose by Writers of the Future award winner Bradley Beaulieu so interesting and tense.
Life in the bleak islands was already difficult before the wasting disease blighted the land and started killing the inhabitants. No one knows what has caused the blight, or that Prince Nikandr Khalakovo has been afflicted by it. Nikandr has been hiding the illness for months and his betrothed, the strong-willed Atiana Vostroma does not realize that she will marry a dying man who is in love with a darkly beautiful Aramahn woman, Rehada, who keeps many secrets from her aristocratic lover.
Atiana, Rehada, and Nikandr are all strong point of view characters who power the plot of this fast-paced novel full of spectacular imagery and emotional punch. The book is rooted with realistic characters in a harsh world that can only be tamed by the elemental magic practiced by the Landless Aramahn, who specialize in air, earth, fire, water and the stuff of life as they wander the world seeking knowledge and wisdom. Also fascinating were the Matri, the matriarchs of the great families who submerge themselves in freezing water and leave their bodies to navigate the dangerous aether and help guide the wind ships that follow the ley lines that connect the islands.
Winds is filled with twists, turns and palpable danger as Nikandr risks everything to protect a young Aramahn boy, an autistic savant, who may be the key to healing the blight. Atiana struggles to stay loyal to her family and the man she is supposed to marry. Rehada is very conflicted and perhaps the most interesting of the three, especially when she uses her magic to bond with the suurahezhan, or fire spirit.
Civil war and the violent Maharraht, a splinter faction of the noble Aramahn, provide plenty of conflict as Nikandr, Atiana, and Rehada fight for what they love in this exceptional novel.
Highly recommended and audible did a great job with this production.
10 of 12 people found this review helpful
I really wanted to like this novel. Several reviewers praised the imaginative setting and the use of several cultures ...Russian, ?Turkish? and Middle Eastern...as the origins of the main characters. Sounded intriguing. Culture clashes, however, have been done to death...espeicially the Eurocentric mind vs. the Oriental mind. And that is what this is, seems to me. First, we have your feudal, ruthless, oppressive Russo/Kharakovan nobility who seem to have little talent except for killing and repression who, somehow, have gotten the upper hand over the highly talented, amazingly spiritual, quite artistic and highly oppressed, long suffering, usually peaceful Middle Eastern/Turkish/Jewish/Araman. And they all live on islands of some sort, that exist in maybe an ocean but the atmosphere is ?ether? but it is somehow breathable. Oh, and the only Karakovans with special talents are, of course, the women, who submerse themselves in ice cold baths and breathe through reeds and "control" the ?ether? so that the men can sail around in it. Hard for me to visualize that part. And, of course, every word of every character throughout this work is gilded with major importance, somehow having to do with the doom coming from some spirit world through magic created by, who else, a sect of Araman terrorists who don't care who they kill...no one even dares to say anything normal or crack a joke...and every word is delivered with high drama. Interestingly, these turbaned Araman can magically create huge creatures made of dirt and rocks ( ringers for Jewish golems?) who wreak death and destruction to the enemies of those with turbans. To the author's credit, he handles plots fairly well and his characters seem humanly motivated, some of the time, which is why I gave it a 2nd star.
But, although small parts of this novel are imaginative, most of it is trite and boring, and seems taken, piecemeal, from the crap that has been reported on tv for the last 30 years, as world news. I keep looking for good fantasy and get mostly disappointed. Unfortunately, there is only one Joe Abercrombie. and few fantasy writers who fall in the "major novelist class"...like Tolkien, Rowley or George RR. . Mr. Beaulieu's writing is typical of the genre. He runs with the pack, not ahead of it. I will cut Mr. Chase a break as far as narrators go. I don't believe any narrator could do much to with voice to improve this novel. And of course, this is the first book of another series. Can't wait.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful