While I cannot get on with his sprawling epic, A Song of Ice and Fire, I am a real fan of much of Martin’s writing – see my review of Tuf Voyaging here, and I also enjoyed Lisa Tuttle’s The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – see my review here. So it was a no-brainer that I would pounce on this one when I spotted it. I’m so glad I did – and I’ll be linking this review to Sci-Fi Month.
The planet of Windhaven was not originally a home to humans, but it became one following the crash of a colony starship. It is a world of small islands, harsh weather, and monster-infested seas. Communication among the scattered settlements was virtually impossible until the discovery that, thanks to light gravity and a dense atmosphere, humans were able to fly with the aid of metal wings made of bits of the cannibalized spaceship.
Many generations later, among the scattered islands that make up the water world of Windhaven, no one holds more prestige than the silver-winged flyers, who bring news, gossip, songs, and stories. They are romantic figures crossing treacherous oceans, braving shifting winds and sudden storms that could easily dash them from the sky to instant death. They are also members of an increasingly elite caste, for the wings—always in limited quantity—are growing gradually rarer as their bearers perish. With such elitism comes arrogance and a rigid adherence to hidebound tradition. And for the flyers, allowing just anyone to join their cadre is an idea that borders on heresy. Wings are meant only for the offspring of flyers—now the new nobility of Windhaven. Except that sometimes life is not quite so neat…
The story charts the fortunes of Maris, who we first meet as a small child, foraging for anything of value on the beach when she makes a life-changing encounter. She meets a flyer called Russ who picks the child up and treats her dream of being a flyer as something more than just the imaginings of some land-bound brat. He eventually adopts her and trains her – until unexpectedly, he has a son. Maris helps to bring the motherless boy up, until the terrible day when she is forced to hand over the wings she has been flying with. For she is not entitled to keep them – they belong to Coll, Russ’s son, even though he yearns to be a singer and has already caught the eye of one of the best professional singers on Windhaven, who wishes to train him. But tradition says that Coll must follow Russ as a flyer, despite his inability to feel the wind.
As we follow Maris and her battle to continue to fly, we also learn of the original colonists and how they accidentally encountered Windhaven. The worldbuilding is excellent with wonderful descriptions of the storms that regularly sweep the planet and the air currents that generally keep the flyers in the sky – and occasionally fling them into the sea. It is a hard, dangerous life and flyers keep to themselves, forming close ties with each other, while despising those who are not able to fly.
A particular decision is made that overturns a tradition that has begun to cause problems – and in a less nuanced, clever book, we would get a variety of adventures involving talented flyer Maris and that would be that. However in this book, decisions have consequences that no one foresaw. The rest of the book continues to follow what befalls Maris, while also exploring the fallout from those decisions and how they impact upon the traditional way of life on Windhaven for both flyers and land-bound alike. I love the way this plays out and how the previous faultlines in society are not only heightened but previous prejudices are also strengthened.
This is a clever, thoughtful book that nonetheless also delivers an engrossing story full of adventure and incident, featuring a sympathetic and believable protagonist. Highly recommended for fans of quality colony adventure… quality fantasy… quality books, basically. Read it and you’ll see what I mean.
I read this one over a decade ago and always recommend it and Fevre Dream to those who like GRRM’s work. I think both are under appreciated. I still need to read he Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross. I remember adding that when I read yer review. So glad ye liked this one. Lovely review. Arrr!
x The Captain
Thank you, Cap:). And I’m completely with you regarding Fevre Dream – I think it’s my alltime favourite novella…
I have never heard of this! I’m so glad I read your review, I’m very curious now. Thank you Sarah😁
Himself unearthed this one, bless him:)).
I didn’t even know about this one! You sure enjoyed it. Thinking I should go explore it further:)
Wonderful review, Sarah. I also hadn’t heard of this one but will definitely be checking it out.
Thank you, Jennifer:). It’s very much worth it – I loved this book.
This is new to me! I’ve been curious about Tuttle’s work for a while, I never knew she had a collab project with GRRM!
I know! And this book should be far better known than it is, as it’s fabulous:)
This is actually one of Martin’s works I have not read yet, and for some reason it rarely crossed my radar, but now that I’ve read your review I intend to fill this blank spot in my… GRRM gallery as soon as possible. Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂
You’re welcome, Maddalena:). I highly recommend this one…
Oh wow – this sounds absolutely amazing. I’ve seen it in bookshops and never quite picked it up (even though I read and loved Fevre Dream, so it wouldn’t be my first glance at Martin’s non Westerosi works). I’m going to have to fix that!
It really is a gem. Himself kept nagging me to read it and I’m so glad I finally listened to him…
Oh, this sounds terrific! I’ve been rather avoiding ASOIAF, mostly on the recommendation of my offspring, who though I wouldn’t enjoy it for a couple of reasons. Robin knows me pretty well, so I took the hint… but they did say that I would like Martin’s worldbuilding and storytelling ability. Looks like this book offers a way to explore his work without tackling the enormity of ASOIAF.
Or the gore and regular death of engaging characters! I’ve loved watching Game of Thrones on TV but couldn’t get through the series when I tried to read it.
So , I think I will like this book , but before I start purchasing , I just wanna know if this book ends properly and doesn’t set things up for future books that don’t get published for 6+ years (yes I am still angry about the fact that I had to watch the TV series instead of read winds of winter)
No, Rash – I promise you that this is a standalone book with no dangling anything. If there had been any issues like that, I would have made it very clear in the review:).
A lovely review! I know you do not give 5 out of 5 lightly, so I know it’s a lovely book as well.
Thank you for your kind words, Rae. I think that you’d love Windhaven, if you could squeeze it into your reading schedule…
I will definitely check this one out – I like both authors and that combined with a 10/10 – what more am I waiting for!
I do hope you manage to track this one down, Lynn – I’d particularly love to hear what you think of Windhaven, too.
I’ve never actually read a non-ASOIAF Martin book, and this sounds so creative and different from anything I’ve read this year. 100% going on my TBR! Thank you for the share! ❤
I’m delighted that you also want to read this book, Kathy:). I’d love to hear what you think about it, too.
I love George R.R. Martin so I can’t believe I didn’t even know about this book. It sounds phenomenal!
I’d love you to get hold of it, because I want to know your thoughts on it. I think it’s amazing – but incredibly not many folks have read it…
Wow! This isn’t a GRRM book I’ve heard of before! And it sounds fantastic. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it during future book-shopping trips. 🙂
Oh, I’m glad that you’re keen to track this one down, Sara. We both absolutely loved Windhaven:))
I’m totally with you — George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic sounds SO daunting!! But this book definitely seems more like what I’d have the time to read. Lol.
The concept and plot sure have me wanting to jump head first into this novel! And I LOVE the silver wing on the cover! It reminds me of similar drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.
I’m adding this book to my Goodreads shelves! Thanks for the GREAT review, Sarah!! CHEERS!!! ❤ ❤ 🙂
You’re very welcome, Maria. I really tried to get into A Song of Ice and Fire – but just couldn’t. Though I LOVED Game of Thrones TV series… Windhaven is a solid delight – I’d love to know what you make of it, Maria:))
Pingback: Mission Status Update: first star on the left – x+1
I really liked Windhaven.
I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much! It’s something special, isn’t it?
I’m with you when it comes to the author’s “sprawling epic” as you put it. But Windhaven sounds really interesting and enjoyable, and I feel like I should really give it a chance.
I really love Martin’s writing – other than A Song of Ice and Fire, or any of the spinoffs. And Windhaven is exceptional – one of my alltime favourite reads… As is his novella Fevre Dream.