Wind on Fire By William Nicholson

This trilogy on fantasy books has always been a spectacle of wonder for me. On the one hand they have one of my favourite books series of all time and I cried when the last book ended, when my heart was suddenly warped into a black void which only a tub of ice cream and my disgruntled cat at being abruptly woken and squashed by a sobbing eleven-year-old, could fill. On the other hand, the first book is abysmal. An awful confusing mess. I reread them recently and gone was my nostalgia to be replaced with cold hate of the first book; the anticlimactic ending, the telepathic main leads and their psychic mother which reminded me of self-inserted fanfiction that make me cringe so hard I become permanently hunchback.

This dreadful story starts in The Wind Singer, set on another world in the city Aramanth where social rank is decided through examinations. The Hath twins, Kestrel and Bowman rebel against this system and the invisible emperor who rules the city. This leads them and an idiot boy named Mumbo to leave the city and find the Wind Singer which will bring peace to Aramanth and defeat the evil Morah. While they complete this epic quest their family is facing trouble as if their father cannot pass his exam then his family will be imprisoned for their children’s crimes. So as I said the two leads Kestrel and Bowman are telepathic which is cringe fully introduced and sparingly used as well as their mother being psychic. Why? Because its needed in the third book. How did they get these powers? No idea, but maybe it was explained in the first book but I was focused on being confused all through the first book to notice. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the emperor, about the people they meet, even about the items they use. It was so confusing, I was in the final chapter still trying to work out who exactly the villain was. The writer has tried to go for a Sauron feel, an all-powerful being with eyes everywhere, but he never felt like a threat, even it was a he, it could have been a genderless woodlouse for all I know. Morah was just mentioned in passing and defeated somewhere else in the world while the book was too busy focusing on exam revision. The ending was anti-climax, everyone seemed to just forget about the exams and social status in exchange for rainbows and cupcakes. the threat that the Hath family faced of the higher classes is soon forgotten, as the higher classes themselves seem to also come down with the rainbow flu. If I hadn’t without another book to read, I would have never touch the second book with a ten foot pole. But I’m glad I did because the second book is my favourite book of all time.

The Second book, Slaves of the Mastery starts with the people of Aramanth are now living in peace but weakened by this docile nature and are soon attacked by the Mastery led by the Captain Ortiz. Most of the people are killed and those who aren’t, are enslaved, apart from Kestrel who, with a beautiful princess Sisi is determined to free her people. I will say this now, half way through the book something happens that involves a lot of people dying horribly, I was hooked after that, sucked into every single paragraph, it made the threat feel real in this book. Also while the overall world was still confusing, the plot was easier to follow. Our protagonist’s loved ones have been kidnapped, our protagonist must get them back with a very clever and interesting plan, which didn’t seem like the author just let Kestrel win, it felt earned. And in this book I realised for that while the first book’s plot was all over the place, its characters were very solid. Bowman is lovely and relatable and Kestrel maybe too stubborn but she was always quick thinking and interesting enough to stop me hating her. And in this book the characters are even better. Sisi’s arch is one of the most engaging I have ever read about and the best strong female role model without needing to start out as a gritty war veteran. we see her become hardened by her surroundings. And when Bowman’s powers grow stronger, meaning he can talk to animal, he meets a cat called Mist who wishes to fly, and if an author can make the printed words of a talking cat who wants to catch birds more easily but knows he never can, make my heart decide to hack its way out of my chest, then the author’s doing something right. Slaves of the Mastery also talks about freedom and what it truly means, the Master who rules the Mastery explains it as a burden and I was starting to agree with him until Kestrel came and ruin everything, in like a said a well thought out climax. All in all one of my favourite books with create characters and an engaging plot.

And finally the last book Firesong, where the people are now free and must travel to the promise land as foretold by Kestrel’s and Bowman’s mother Ira. While the people are walk half way around the world, Kestrel and Bowman reluctantly join the Master to learn the ways of the Singer people to once again defeat Morah. This book is fine, still the same good main characters and colourful side characters met along the way and still the same simple, if weak plot as the second book. why are they going to this promise land? A crazy woman told them, they didn’t need much convincing really. But they do reach the promise land and Morah is defeated (no really he was, we swear, we’d love to show you but then you’d miss out on all the people walking endlessly). It just happened so quickly it seemed too good to be true, like the author didn’t want to write anymore so hurriedly gathered all the pieces together to make a neat little bow and a slightly forced happy ending. But like I said I love this series, it has great characters and after the first book it gets much better.

 

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