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Windhaven
by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
Bantam Books, $16.00, 336pp
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Can’t get enough of George R. R. Martin’s writing? Well, here you go: a reprint of a novel he wrote with Lisa Tuttle back in 1981. It’s a wonderful fantasy novel with terrific characters.

Windhaven is the name of a planet covered mostly by water. The story concentrates on clusters of islands where the descendants from a crashed space ship live in much more primitive circumstances.

Since the world is ocean—you’d think sailing would be the best way to communicate between far-flung societies, right?

Nope. Flyers are the swiftest messengers for news, music and gossip.

Humans sail the skies with artificial wings made from the remnants of the huge solar sail that brought their ancestors’ ship to the planet.

The initial survivors used what metal they could salvage from the spaceship and cut up pieces of the solar sail to use as the fabric between the struts to fashion wings with a twenty-foot span. Since the planet is mostly water—there’s plenty of storms and well, weather to keep the flyers aloft.

These sets of wings have been jealously guarded and passed down from generation to generation. If they lose a flyer and his wings; they are down one pair since the people of Windhaven do not have the means to make new ones—just repair or cobble together ones from materials that already exist.

Of course, by the time the novel begins, the flyers are a very elite group who deliver messages for the Landsmen—those who do not fly and manage the politics on each island for the rest of the folks who don’t fly.

Enter Maris the daughter of a fisherman—who wants more than anything to feel the winds aloft.

So, tenacious woman that she is: she does it. ‘Flying’ against all tradition to do so.

Maris’ older brother Coll is supposed to be the flyer in the family since he is the first born but he doesn’t want to fly; he wants to be a bard. The wings are given to someone else—and Maris sets off and steals them. And goes on to prove herself, in a competition, worthy to wear them.

But her actions force a calling of a Flyers Council which hasn’t happened in ages and there she confronts the age –old prejudices and traditions and forces the reluctant flyers to agree anyone on Windhaven should have the right to compete for wings and that there needs to be flying academies to teach the non-flyers, usually called “one-wings” by the traditional flyers.

Maris is the touchstone for change everywhere: between friends, life-long enemies, warring factions and ultimately how the people of Windhaven view their hide-bound society as a whole.

As the central character, Maris goes through a great deal of growth and maturing and the two authors chart her story by building the changes in her and Windhaven with deft touches. Maris is not all wonder woman—she has doubts and weaknesses and almost loses her sense of self-worth when a great tragedy befalls her. There are no magical deus-ex-machinas here either. The solutions are all brought about by people pulling together.

“Windhaven” is a well-constructed world and is an excellent read.

A perfect book for when you still need your George R. R. Martin and you’ve read ALL of the Ice and Fire series (twice)! ~~ Sue Martin

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