Windswept is a wonderful coming-of-age tale with excellent characters and a fun and engaging magic system
I’m not sure how I stumbled upon Windswept by Kaitlin Bellamy. Maybe someone mentioned it on a forum or Twitter. Maybe I happened to see it on Amazon somehow. Regardless, I’m very glad I happened upon it. This is a wonderful coming of age story with unique magic and engaging, believable characters. In other words, it’s very much my kind of fantasy.
The story follows Fox, a young trapper and trader-in-training. He lives in a village in a country cursed by the gods. Long winters threaten survival, and a complete lack of magic contributes to the difficulty of eking out an existence. His best friend in his village is Lai, a girl his own age who is the daughter of the local innkeeper. Early on in the novel he also strikes up a friendship with Neil, a member of the mysterious and always roaming Shavid. These relationships are really what make this novel so engaging. Each of the characters is crafted with care. They feel real and authentic. It’s obvious that Bellamy has taken great interest in creating these characters and making them as engaging as possible. I loved the interactions between Fox and Lai, and his friendship with Neil also felt very true to both characters personalities. This is to say nothing of the side characters that populate the world. While they obviously don’t receive the same amount of focus as the main characters, they still feel very much fully realized and authentic. One of the other things that Bellamy has done incredibly well is the arc of her main character, Fox. He grows and learns and changes throughout the novel and part of the fun of reading is seeing how he grows. This is all to say nothing of the magic system, which is among the more unique magics I’ve seen in fantasy. Relying on the wind - and every bit as variable as we often find the wind - it allows hints of what is coming or a view of distant events to those who are sensitive to it. More is revealed throughout the novel which I can’t mention in order to avoid spoilers. Suffice it to say that the title of the series (“The Mapweaver Chronicles”) allows us to say that magic system touches on maps and that’s really cool. I loved it.
While I loved many things about this book, two weaknesses kept me from fully falling in love with it. The first is that in the final third of the book I felt like the pacing slowed down a little and made the book feel like it was dragging. It actually wasn’t, but it felt like it. This was frustrating, since it came during a point when I expected things to ramp up a bit. But the larger issue for me was that the novel had various continuity issues throughout. Most of these were small. For instance, at one point the spring thaw has come and the land is in the midst of something called the “mudlock” which is described as a time when it’s difficult to travel because of all the mud. Makes sense. Except that then a group of folks set out with wagons and don’t seem to have any trouble travelling because of the weather. Another example: there is a major snowstorm that drops a couple feet of snow (enough to be described as up to peoples’ thighs). However, two characters are able to traverse this snow more quickly than they had covered the same distance a day or two earlier when there had been no snow. It’s rather amazing that they could traverse it at all, as it’s extremely difficult to wade through thigh-high snow that hasn’t been shovelled or plowed in any way. These serve to illustrate the sort of thing I’m talking about. I really enjoyed the book, but these sorts of small issues did shake me out of the narrative from time to time and that was disappointing.
Windswept is a wonderful coming-of-age tale with excellent characters and a fun and engaging magic system. If you can forgive the small continuity issues here and there it is well worth your time. Check it out today!
Review by Calvin Park
8/10 from 1 reviews
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