Windhaven. I have been continually amazed with each book that I have read in Martin's oeuvre with how broad his reach is and how complete his mastery is of his craft no matter where his compass points. Medieval literature, fantasy, science fiction, pop culture character driven plots, he makes it all seem effortless and organic. Nothing comes across as labored or forced. My opinion of Martin was only enhanced after my time with Windhaven.
In this story, we visit a world covered in vast oceans. The inhabitants, long ago descendants of Earth, live among a group of islands. On a level equal to the rulers of the people are the flyers. Individuals who don the silver skinned wings that were once part of the great solar sails of the space ships, carry news and vital communications from island to island. For untold generations, the wings have been kept within families and passed down from parents to children. The great flyers are revered in song and story long after they have taken their last flights.
Like many children, Maris is enthralled by the flyers. Larger than life heroes who fill her dreams at night. One day she wanders away from her mother to watch a flyer as he lands on a beach near her home. The flyer, who has no children of his own, literally takes young Maris under his wings and teaches her how to fly. However, one day several years later, the flyer and his wife are able to have a child of their own and Maris knows that when young Coll comes of age, she will lose her wings to him. However, Coll has no desire to fly despite the generations of tradition. Maris then tries to convince the tradition-bound flyers that the wings should not be kept within families, but awarded to the best flyers in annual competitions.
The story of Windhaven follows Maris for the rest of her life as she rises to great heights to shed her outsider and outcast label and then ultimately falls to the lowest of lows when she loses herself along the way. Ultimately, her friends help her to find herself and regain her strength and her love for adventure and life. A sweet story with a laid-back pacing that served to give rise to a touching poignancy and a few tears along the way.