Lord of the Changing Winds is a very well done, straightforward fantasy novel. While there isn’t anything earth-shatteringly new here, neither is there a sense of “same old story.”
Rachel Neumeier takes an interesting direction with Kes, one of her main characters. Kes is a 15-year-old orphan girl, raised by her sister in a small, quiet village. She has healing abilities and doesn’t quite fit in. So far, all the clichéd standards. Kes, however, is not a cliché. Once Kes meets the griffins and is taken by the griffin mage who awakens the magic within her, she changes. She becomes more and more distant from her human emotions. Kes isn’t your typical teen heroine and I for one was happy that this wasn’t just another “youth bonding with a magical creature” book. The other main characters are Bertaud, advisor to King Iaor of Feierabiand, and Kairaithin, griffin mage and the Lord of the Changing Winds of the title. They are well written and believable in their roles. The interactions between the men and Kes will affect the future of their kingdom and world. Each interaction changed my perspective on the characters. Every time I thought I had them pegged, something else would happen and my view of them changed. None of them are wholly sympathetic characters, which makes for a better than average book.
The griffins are well done and I appreciated that Neumeier gives them a very believable, non-human — not sure if I can use “alien” in a fantasy review — perspective and attitude. Griffins are not often used in fantasy, and Neumeier’s griffins can take their place with the best of them. They perfectly fit my idea of how a griffin should look and act.
The weakest point in the book is the military aspect. The ability to move the sheer numbers of troops around in the time frames mentioned would take a kind of magic that isn’t part of Neumeier’s fantasy world. Even so, only those readers who are sticklers for realism in those aspects are likely to be bothered by those sections.