Windhaven by George RR Martin & Lisa Tuttle

Review published on March 23, 2015.Reviewed by sara garland

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

Maris lives on the Island of Lesser Amberly, with her stepfather Russ and stepbrother Coll. She comes of age at 13 years old and is able to become a flyer, something she has desired to become since a young girl. Lesser Amberly is a collection of small islands amongst a stormy sea that forms part of Windhaven. The major form of communication across Windhaven is via messages carried by the flyers.

Maris was originally a fisherman’s daughter, who was adopted by Russ, a flyer, who lost the use of one arm and needed an heir to replace him. At this time he had not borne any children, although unexpectedly his wife later gave birth to a boy, who would be the rightful heir to the wings.

Flyers were forged generations ago by sea sailors. They wear wings of 20ft folded segments that lock together via metal as thin as skin, but is nonetheless immensely strong. The wings catch the winds and glide. Being a flyer is not without danger and a dozen flyers are killed each year, either because they skim too low and catch the water, or get attacked by sea creatures called scyllers if they fly too close to the surface of the sea. Either this or they are blown off course to die at sea, essentially due to exhaustion. Due to the size of the wings, land bound islanders help the flyers, (who are held in very high regard) to remove their wings when they land.

Maris lives to fly; she is a formidable flyer and is much respected as a consequence. Coll, although the rightful heir to Russ’s wings does not wish to be a flyer and although trained to fly, lacks confidence and consequently merely endures it. During his coming of age first flight, he experiences a difficult turn in the wind, struggles and experiences a very bad landing. It is then he makes it known he does not wish to fly. Maris, who loves Coll and knows that all he lives to be is a singer of old and new stories and folk tales, supports his decision.

Russ, however, is horrified and rejects his children. As per flyers tradition, the wings are given to the senior flyer rather than offered to Maris. She is devastated and conspires to steal the wings for unless she can seize them to orchestrate a council meeting and change the current way of doing things, she knows she will lose the wings and her right to fly forever.

I really wanted to enjoy this book and up to this point did so. The world inhabited by the flyers was original and exciting, the intricacies of tradition and law well conveyed. However, from the point when Maris has to convince senior flyers from across all the islands to revoke tradition and introduce an academy for land people to access, the book lost its way. The argument and concept was clearly flawed and from this point forward the story lost its cohesion. Told in three parts, the second and third parts felt disjointed and consequently all you felt was a disconnect between these and the primary part of the story.

The read was pleasant enough, but I found myself uninspired to continue to pick the book up to find out what was going to happen next once I had put it down. This isn’t like me. The Song of Ice and Fire series was a truly imaginative, complex and an immensely great read. Here this book was in such contrast to this, lacking in cohesion, that it felt like Martin had not greatly contributed to the writing of it. It felt like it would be better pitched at a YA audience than selling it as a must for Game of Thrones fans. It’s meant to be a tongue in cheek science fiction romp, but in my view never achieved what it aspired to be. It was OK, but sadly nothing greater than that.

 

Sara Garland

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