Friday, June 12, 2015

The Winds of Khalakovo

I was reading through an online list of reviews on a book that I had just completed when I came across a reviewer that pointed to a series called The Lays of Anuskaya by Bradley Beaulieu. After poking about a bit, I decided to dive into the first book in the published trilogy entitled The Winds of Khalakovo. This novel was billed as an unconventional fantasy epic. While some aspects of the story were quite unique, its main story arcs were quite traditional - relationships, betrayals, mistrust, warfare, and political intrigue. Nonetheless, as this was the first published book by this author, I was quite impressed with his ambition, his literary skill, and his approach. Certainly there were several portions of the story where the world building/magic system development were anything but clear, but never to the point where I was not able to muddle through and grasp the main point the author was trying to make.

The story takes place in the archipelago of Anuskaya, a scattered group of island nations spread out over the sea and ruled by a group of dukes. At the crossroads of the trade routes is the powerful duchy of Khalakovo. The islands are in a tenuous equilibrium as a terrible wasting disease has afflicted many and is also accompanied by a blight to the land. Resources are stretched nearly beyond the breaking point and civil unrest is growing. However, a mutually beneficial arrangement has been made between the duchies of Khalakovo and Vostroma to strengthen their relationship and their positions. Part of this brokered treaty includes the marriage of Prince Nikandr of Khalakovo to Princess Atiana of Vostroma. As the wedding day nears, all of the dukes arrive in Khalakovo for the great celebration. However, as the Grand Duke arrives, he is murdered by an earth spirit in a scene of terrible bloodshed and confusion. Immediately sides are formed as a faction of the dukes believe that Nikandr's father is protecting the one responsible for the murder. Soon armed conflict boils over.

At the heart of the problems plaguing the people and their lands is a great rift that has formed between the physical world over Anuskaya and the spirit world. While this rift continues to grow, there is great fear that it will utterly destroy the archipelago. There are some who would allow this to happen in their anger and their bitterness of being crushed under the foot of the Duchy, but there are others who better understand the true consequences. At the heart of the growing rift is a child, a sort of savant, who seems to exist partly in the physical world and partly in the spirit world. For reasons not fully understood, he has formed a tenuous link with Nikandr. Even though Nikandr does not fully understand who the boy is and what role he has come to play, he understands that young Nasim may be the only one who can heal the rift and save the lands and their people. However, as the rival dukes believe that Nasim is somehow responsible for the death of the Grand Duke, they seek their justice. Nikandr cannot allow this given the ever-growing rift and his sense that Nasim can close it. However, just as Nikandr helps Nasim to
start to close the rift, Nasim is taken away before it can be fully sealed.

I definitely enjoyed my time absorbed in this story. It was not a quick or light read in that it took a bit of contemplative engagement to stay in touch. However, I had no complaints. I now move onto the second part of the story in, The Straits of Galahesh.