Wind Follower: Lush and impressive debut

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Carole McDonnell Wind FollowerWind Follower by Carole McDonnell

With Wind Follower, Carole McDonnell has written a literary fantasy that makes you feel like you are absolutely steeped in another culture. The prose is gorgeous and the characters three-dimensional, with both idealistic traits and glaring faults. Emotions are unsheathed and roil throughout the plot. It almost feels like a walk through a spirit world. Tempers flair and knifes flash at the most unexpected times.

At its heart is a very simple story, the story of a man and a woman who meet, get married and fall in love, in that order. The cultures that they live in have very specific traditions. One is that if the wife of a warrior has a child, it is the warrior’s child. It does not matter who the actual father is. Loic’s father honors this custom even when one of his wives, the Third Wife (she has no other name that I could find) was unfaithful. The Third Wife is spiteful and vindictive, and she uses her lover to wrong Satha. The rest of the story is about the ramifications of this evil act.

McDonnell does a good job of giving each of the four races in the novel different faults, but one race appears to have the sole virtue of bearing the word of the Creator. Other than that, they seem to be almost wholly awful. In fact, in the glossary they are described as a “hateful tribe.” The concept of an evil race is one that I’ve long disagreed with in fantasy literature. All too often, you have the elves and they are good, and the orcs and they are evil. You see orcs, you kill them. This is why I enjoyed Morgan Howell’s Queen of the Orcs, and why Jim Hines’s Goblin Quest is still on my reading list. They explore other possibilities.

In the backstory, the lands of the three tribes are invaded by a fourth. The three tribes appear to be wealthy but they are medieval. The fourth tribe however, has guns and explosives. This does not figure prominently in the story, but the parallels to American history cannot be ignored. Especially when the tribes are all gathered to a place. One might be tempted to think these tribes are based on African tribes, but I find stronger parallels with Native Americans.

The plot abounds with conflicts, and not all are resolved by the end of the book. There is the conflict between Satha and Loic, between Loic and Satha’s rapist, between Satha and her rapist, between Loic and the spirits, between the spirts and the Creator, between Satha and her Angelini captors, and I haven’t even named half of them. McDonnell does a good job with the “conflict on every page” precept of fiction writing. But, a little over halfway through Wind Follower, Loic’s plot lost much of its pacing for me.

But Carole McDonnell kept me guessing right to the end. I absolutely loved the events leading up to the final conflict, the ceremonies and traditions bound up in it, and the way Loic’s choice has ramifications for years beyond. I can only describe the ending as bittersweet. Happy things happen, but some surprising awful things happen as well.

The dialog in Wind Follower reminded me strongly of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. It has a definite rhythm, and it doesn’t feel like natural dialog. It almost feels like Biblical dialog — something like poetry. In fact, the entire book is stuffed with rich prose. There is no grittiness here; no words meant to shock. It is like a work of detailed art. However, McDonnell does not overdo it like Cecilia Dart-Thornton did in The Ill-Made Mute. It is highly readable.

Wind Follower was a lush and impressive debut. It will make you think. It might make you cry. In a few places, it even makes you laugh. This is the type of novel that you will think about for days afterword.
FanLit thanks Tia Nevitt from Debuts & Reviews for contributing this guest review.

Wind Follower — (2007) Publisher: Although it is not entirely to her liking, grief-stricken Satha, a dark-skinned woman from a poor Theseni clan weds young Loic, the wealthy Doreni son of the king’s First Captain. Loic, graced with ability to see into the hearts and minds of others, begins to help Satha overcome her sorrows. Despite coming from different tribes, they begin to forge a life together. But when Satha’s own compassion is used against her and a treacherous enemy contrives to dishonor her in Loic’s absence, Loic’s love turns to anger and disgust. Embittered, Loic must still avenge his honor and Satha’s and he sets out on a journey that brings despair as well as spiritual discovery. Battling him are the Arkhai, the spirits of the land who know his quest will lead him toward the God whom they have usurped. After his departure, Satha is kidnapped, sold into slavery and learns, first hand, how cruel the pioneering Angleni tribe can be. Both face great hardship, danger and anguish apart, but with the Creator’s aid there remains hope they will be reunited and heal the love the world has torn asunder.

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TIA NEVITT, a guest contributor, has been a mechanic in the Air Force, a factory worker, a civilian supply weasel for the military, and finally, an office worker. She’s been an IT professional for 13 years, and now she's writing her own novels. Find out about them on our Tia Nevitt page or at Tia's blog.

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