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.
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