Windhaven by George RR Martin

(8.9/10) One of the best fantasy stories ever told.

Maris wants more than anything to be a flyer after seeing them as a child. Her harsh days spent foraging for clams with her mother were eased if only a little by watching them on the beach. Maris even befriended one, but she found early on that she would never be a flyer as only the firstborn child is allowed to inherit the metal wings as their birthright.

Her brother, Coll is the one who inherits the wings and as such has a big responsibility to become a great flyer, though he falls on his first flight, deciding he doesn't want to be a flyer. His father in response threatens to disown him if he does. Maris can't understand why the wings are awarded to those who have no ability to be flyers; Maris can fly well, but she is not to inherit the wings in her family. What happens later in the story changes Marris's life when she disagrees with her father.

Being a flyer is the one occupation Maris would love to be, but only those who are named as inheritors ever get to take the wings and as it is the law, it can never be changed. Maris remembers her mother telling her the story of Woodwings. This is a story used by parents to dissuade their children from wanting to take to the skies with makeshift wings. Maris, on the other hand sees the story of a boy who wanted to be a flyer against all odds, even willing to die for what he believed in though he was seen as foolish by others.

This hardback edition boasts writing from winning combo George RR Martin and Lisa Tuttle with some richly coloured art from Elsa Charretier who debuted at Image Comics and brings the characters to life through some clever panel work. This is the story of how we have to live with the choices we make if we want to change how we live our lives.

Game of Thrones author George RR Martin and Lisa Tuttle team up to give us a story with a brilliant twist; the one who does not want to be a flyer inherits wings, while the one who can fly is unable purely by birth. When Corm lends Maris his wings in secret, she tells what she has done, a council is set up and she is tried for defying the law of her people. It is what happens during this council meeting that kept me reading right to the end.
Sandra Scholes, 9/10

Politics before adventure.

I really liked the imaginative setting and the enchanting theme, but felt that if more emphasis had been placed on adventure, action and exploration, rather than politics, the book would have been tremendous. The vivid setting was crying out for a more ambitious storyline.

I very much liked the light reading, and flowing writing style, but found the "parts" (big chapters) too long. A few more layers to the storyline, via different sub-stories, might have helped to break up these long "parts".

I thought the principle of following the lifecycle of the lead character was novel, but the big jump in years between "parts" felt unnatural, and left me intrigued to know what had occurred in the intervening years.

The sections with action in hinted at the potential of this book. They were captivating, combining very nicely with the rich descriptions of the landscape and weather. Some of the outcomes were a little predictable, however.

I am still searching for a more cheery, light hearted fantasy, adventure book, or series. It is proving difficult! Trying to avoid war, excessive politics, epic struggles and hardship is very tricky!

I really wanted to like this one off book by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle. The writing style is excellent, suitable for a broad audience, but there is just too much "huff and puff" without substance. I found that amount of politics gave the book a droney, grumpy feel, which unfortunately detracted from the otherwise enchanting storyline.
Mark Perfect, 8/10

It is 6am in the morning, and I have read relatively non-stop since 6pm last night. I do not normally write a review immediately upon reviewing a book, but occasionally the desperate need to perfectly capture the feelings upon finishing the book drive me to my computer, no matter the time or circumstances. At times it can improperly affect the reviews bias, but on this occasion, I am going to make another exception.

‘Windhaven’ by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle moved me in a way that no book has done in many, many years – possibly ever. What appears to be a one-off fantasy story, Windhaven covers the entire life of one character – Maris of Lesser Amberly. In this way, I was somewhat disappointed, to be honest. Not being a fan of one-off fantasy books, nor of time-jumps, I was immediately perturbed by the way this book began playing itself out at the one-third mark. But already it had caught its’ hooks in me, so that I kept reading with barely a memory of my displeasure.

At times, the Windhaven appears somewhat derivative – a word I dislike immensely, but a word that is the only one that suits another book about an elite group of messengers of some kind (think Kate Elliott’s ‘Crossroads’ series or Kristen Britain’s ‘Green Rider’ series). At times, the characters seem small, somewhat two-dimensional; as if the author’s did not want to stretch the boundaries for fear that it would cause the book to require a sequel.

While these ‘At times’ may be accurate, they should in no way be construed as a reliable commentary on Windhaven: To do so would fundamentally mistake what this book is; a one-of-its-kind, exemplary one-off fantasy story, so vividly told that by the time you have finished the final pages – and therefore the final pages of Maris’ life – you feel the melancholy sorrow of a life nearing its end. No other book has so effectively communicated the slow passage of time that comes with growing older, nor the myriad mistakes, errors in judgement, and selfish naivety that come with growing up. In looking back, I feel Maris’ life as my own, and exult in the few times that I got it right, and am glad that, even though I sometimes made mistakes, and often thought only of myself, I did something.

And then I remember it was a book.

In no way does this book remind me of George R. R. Martin’s more popular works, likely because Windhaven was written fifteen-years before ‘A Game of Thrones’ was published. That this book is now 34 years old is baffling to me, as it reveals itself as the progenitor for many stories that have come since – therefore making it not the derivative book I might have led you to believe. Windhaven is, in many ways, the story that came before some of our most beloved fantasy fiction – and in many other ways is far beyond what those that have come since have achieved. There is a sense of familial weight to this book that makes you walk away from it feeling as if you have read of one of your own ancestors. The relationships, the characters, the events – they might be smaller than those found in other books, but in that way it makes this even more a personal story. Not all our lives are made up of fantastic quests and improbable odds. Friends are lost, relationships strained, hard-feelings soothed, and mistakes heavily outweighing the good we have done.

I could wax rhapsodically about Windhaven for some time, but instead I will say this: I wish I had read Windhaven long ago, so that I could see how much influence it has had on all that I have read and loved over the past two decades. However, I am conversely glad that I have read this book now, as I suspect it would not have had the emotional impact on a younger version of me as it has had today.

Windhaven may be one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in the past two decades, but that surely makes it one of the best fantasy stories ever told.
Joshua S Hill, 9.8/10

Reviews by and Mark Perfect and Joshua S Hill

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Windhaven reader reviews

from India

Actually it was my first books which i read when i was a child. So it was important for me that the first book which i have to read could be interesting and having lesson in it coz according to me at that time i thought ' first impression is the last impresaion '. So i found it even much more than interesting. I love it very much. Thank you.

9.5/10 from 2 reviews

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