Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell

Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell is undoubtedly one of my favorite books of the year. As I sit down to write this review I find myself faced with the same problem I had earlier this year when reviewing The Time Traveler's Wife...How do I do this book justice? Wind Follower is a complex yet very readable book; an epic story that tells a powerful tale that imbibes the soul and is filled with passion in each page.

The story is set in a wonderfully unique world that's not often seen in fantasy literature. I'm not totally certain you'd classify this as fantasy, but it has the epic feel of a high fantasy novel and certainly has some fantastic aspects to it, so that should work. The world as I pictured it is a rich desert-like landscape somewhere in the African region. Three tribes abide in this region: The Theseni, the dark skinned original natives of the land; the Doreni, the lighter brown skinned people of the land who conquered the Theseni 500 years ago, and the Ibeni who I took to be people of Asian descent but I could be way off there. With each tribe, McDonnell has created a rich history and beautiful customs. Each tribe is wholly believable as a tribe that actually existed in our Earth's past as McDonnell so skillfully and masterfully describes their ways.

Loic is the son of Taer, the head of a Doreni clan. At the age of eighteen, Loic lays eyes on Satha, a Theseni woman who is 26 years old, and wants her for his wife. It's an unlikely marriage. Satha is beyond normal child bearing years and comes from a poor family. She is dark skinned and from a different tribe than Loic. But Loic has eyes only for her and swears to take her as his only wife and so he weds her and makes her part of his powerful household.

This unlikely union has many obstacles to face just in being what it is. But there are many other things that it will face. Loic has "the falling sickness" or epilepsy as we know it and he is considered weak for it, though few talk about it. This is one of many things that he must overcome to prove himself a strong leader. He must father a child to show his strength. And with that the couple faces more issues.

I really don't want to go much more into the plot because the book tells such a strong and gripping tale, a powerful tale that is so emotionally engaging. McDonnell takes on issues of rape, race, slavery, war, religion, and so much more and nothing is held back. She faces these issues head on and handles them in a way that is raw and honest yet leaves the soul satisfied.

It leaves the soul satisfied because one of the major themes of the book is spirituality. There is plenty of Christian allegory in this book, but you certainly don't have to be a Christian to enjoy it. The tribes in the novel are all steeped in their individual religious practices, some of them very raw, some very beautiful. They reminded me of Native American and Mayan religious practices. Loic and Satha go through quite a bit of trauma in this book. I'm not going to go through it because I don't want to spoil the plot, but they are separated and endure a lot. But there is an enduring spirit there and it comes from a power higher than man. It's truly beautiful and Carole has a true gift in being able to write such touching prose.

I can't say enough about Carole McDonnell's writing. It just blew me away! She created a world that was so incredibly complex with it's own slang, scenery, caste system, races, etc. and made it feel so comfortable. I fell into it easily. I fell in love with her characters instantly. Loic and Satha will both stay with me for a long time. They are both incredibly strong, amazing characters and I'm glad to have met them. Her use of language is just phenomenal. I found the novel painting a picture in my head as I read it, her words are chosen so perfectly. She certainly has a career ahead of her that I look forward to following.

Wind Follower was published through Juno Books which is a very cool publisher. I had never heard of it before finding this book, but Juno publishes books that focus on strong female characters! How cool is that?

Anyone else read this one? I'd love to discuss it. If not, please do! It's a great one!


Nymeth said...

Wow, this sounds like a must-read! To the wish list it goes.

The way you described her writing, the way the world is constructed and the issues that are dealt with really reminded me of Ursula Le Guin's work. You must read her fantasy... you'll like it!

Kailana said...

ugh, Ursula Le Guin. She leaves a bad taste in my mouth after attempting her Earthsea series or whatever she calls it. The Left-Hand of Darkness was good, though... Anyways, to each their own. :)

I added this book to my wish list a while ago, but I haven't bought it yet. Maybe in the New Year. I like the idea of the publishing company it comes from, though, I am going to have to look them up.

Rhinoa said...

Sorry not read it but it sounds very cool. I love the cover, it's so strong and powerful.

CaroleMcDonnell said...

YAY!!!!!! Thanks, Chris. Cackling with joy here. -C

Carl V. said...

Isn't it great when you read a book that is so good that you are at first loathe to review it because you don't want to screw up the review? :)

So glad it exceeded your expectations. This sounds like something my wife would LOVE and I'll have to point it out to her.

Chris Howard said...

Wonderful review, Chris. I'm a little over halfway through Wind Follower, and completely taken with it.

-the other Chris Howard

Becky said...

This one sounds like a definite must-read. I'll add it to my ever-growing list of books to look for at the library :)

Chris said...

Nymeth, Definitely a must read :) I read Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven and really did not like it. However, that's the only thing of hers that I've tried, so I'll definitely give her another try. I'd like to read her Earthsea books and I plan on reading Gifts after your review! I know that you would just love this book though. It's right up your alley and it's just beautiful. Especially considering that you're such a big fan of folklore. Just perfect!

Kailana, My first experience with LeGuin wasn't great either, but I'm going to give her another try too :) I really hope you do buy this one! Great book from cover to cover ...isn't that cover cool by the way? Juno really has some awesome covers!

Rhinoa, I love the cover too! It stood out to me right away. It's very representative of Satha, the character shown. Cool character there. The publisher, Juno books, has a bunch of cool covers! I like their artists.

Carole, Ah, but thank you! Truly a wonderful book Carole. I enjoyed it from the first page to the last and now that I've slept on it for a night I truly feel that I went on a journey with your characters. Great experience!

Carl, It really is great, but like you said, I hate writing the reviews! My first thoughts after finishing it were "oh shit, how do I properly explain this?" But hey, it's a burden that I wish would come more often! I hope Mary enjoys it if she reads it, it's a great one!

Other Chris Howard, :) Prepare to be even more taken! Glad to hear you're enjoying it!

Becky, Because your list just isn't long enough, right? LOL! I'm sure you'd enjoy this one Becky. It's quite tragic at times, but it's really a beautiful book!

DesLily said...

Ok.. ok.. so you will be way ahead of me in how many books you read in 2007.. I get it! (sheesh)

I think you need to change professions and become a publisher.. you like everything! Just think of how many "wanna be's" would get published if you were a publisher!! (not to mention your own story!) This way many good stories that get turned down will get out there and we'll have even MORE books to choose from! Won't that be fun?! (I just hope there aren't limits on how many pages one's wish list can be , heh)

Chris said...

Deslily, What I wouldn't give to be a publisher! But you're absolutely right, my publishing company would go broke in a heartbeat! Though I'm sure there are plenty of truly bad stories out there :p I just tend to like stories of any kind. It's really hard for me to dislike a book unless I'm truly disinterested in it's subject. But it's also hard for me to absolutely fall in love with a book. There's usually only a handful a year that I fall in love with and this is one of them. Time Traveler's Wife, A Game of Thrones, Thirteenth Tale, Love in the Time of Cholera, and Kesterwood are other stories that immediately come to mind :)

DesLily said...

Oh, I have to agree on 13th tale! (the others I haven't read).. ok the last one I have.. you get brownie points for that LOL.. I may not read your variety, but we are alike in one thing.. it's seldom I don't enjoy the book I am reading. Not Impossible!.. but not often ..heh.

The thought came to me.. that once publishers have "known authors" and stop taking on any "first time authors".. if they think that by adding others it may take sales from others? Sometimes I think that the "marketing cost" of a new author isn't the only reason they turn down 1st timers. Sad though.

Bookfool said...

Wow, that's a pretty high recommendation. I'm starting early on my 2008 goal not to buy a single book (seriously - how long do you think I'll last?) so I'll just have to stick it on the wish list, for now. Thanks for yet another incredible review.

Chris said...

Bookfool, I'm trying that one myself, though I know already that I'll make a few exceptions. There's a handful of authors that I HAVE to buy their books whenever they're published. But aside from them, I'm trying to read what's on the shelves already. This one's great though. If you don't make it in 08, I hope you get to it in 09 ;)

CaroleMcDonnell said...

Hey there, Chris.

Paula posted your review on the Juno blog. Neat! Thanks again for liking it. -C

Chris said...

Carole, That's so cool!! I'm glad she liked the review :) Happy for you too!