George R. R. Martin, Lisa Tuttle
Windhaven Cover



I think of all the fantasy I've read, Windhaven may very well be the most beautiful world that I've come across. There's no other word to describe it.

Maris longs to be a flyer, one of the most prestigious occupations in the world of Windhaven. Why? Windhaven is a water world composed entirely of islands, and flyers brave the treacherous winds to carry news and messages to and fro. But of course, there's a problem. Flyers use a lightweight machine to fly that since time immemorial has been passed down from parent to child. There has never been any other way. And Maris' father is long dead, her mother a beachcomber. Windhaven is the story of Maris' quest to challenge tradition, the benefits and the consequences of changing a tradition.

This isn't my usual fantasy read, though whether it's actually fantasy is debatable. There are enough science fiction elements strewn about the landscape to make it an interesting amalgamation. I personally like a little more violence in my fantasy. But I have to admit, it's a wonderful story, and for something well out my comfort zone, I think I enjoyed it fairly well. Windhaven tells Maris' story from a young age all the way to her twilight years, of the changes she wroughts in Windhaven culture and the resulting shock waves she creates.

Being an essentially character driven story, you really can't discuss this without talking about the characters. I read this book nearly two years ago, and to be honest there's only two characters I remember vividly. The first is Maris herself, who other than being interesting for the events she sets in motion, is relatively boring herself. I just plain didn't connect with her. And then there's Val, who's every bit a rebellious individual as Maris but not nearly as likeable. In his own way, Val's story is similar to Maris', though whereas Maris' appears to be cast in such a manner as to be virtuous, sensible and inspiration, Val's represents that darker side of the human heart driven by greed. An interesting bit of dichotomy there.

As the story progressed, I found myself more and more bored. Like I said, this is really not my type of story. And as any fan of Martin knows, the guy takes forever to build to his climax. Windhaven's no different in that sense. This is a typical example of a story I didn't hate, but neither did I love it. It held my interest but at the same time never interested me. Does that make sense? That's fine if it doesn't, I find emotions are terribly complex things to describe when discussing a book.

But definitely what stole the show for me is the world of Windhaven. It's breathtakingly beautiful. With Maris, we see the world from a peasant all the way to the world of a flyer; from the rural settings like a beach, to the settlements, and then finally the world when she takes to the sky. This is a world rich and vibrant in every sense of the word; just thinking back on it I can imagine the fury of the storms that will kill a flyer faster than the beasts they share the skies with, the world spread out below the wings of a flyer as they soar on the winds.......

Windhaven won't be the best book you've read, but neither will it be the worst. If you're a fan of either author, you're definitely going to want to read this at some point, but it doesn't have to be a priority. The worldbuilding alone makes this book a wonderful read for me. Definitely worth your time if you're into anything I mentioned in here.