- Series: The Lays of Anuskaya
- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Night Shade Books; 1st edition (April 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781597802185
- ISBN-13: 978-1597802185
- ASIN: 1597802182
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #831,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Winds of Khalakovo (The Lays of Anuskaya) Paperback – April 1, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Debut novelist Beaulieu paints a detailed and realistic portrayal of individual fates bound up in social responsibilities as well-grounded cultures clash. Prince Nikandr Khalakovo, facing an arranged marriage, also suffers from a wasting disease plaguing the Anuskaya islands. When the rebellious Maharraht loose a fire elemental and kill the visiting Grand Duke Stasa Bolgravya, civil war erupts, and all factions seek to capture a mysterious autistic boy who straddles both the spirit and the material worlds. Beaulieu skillfully juggles elements borrowed from familiar cultures (primarily Russian and Bedouin) as well as telepathy, airborne ships, and magical gems. Viewpoint shifts are occasionally confusing, but the prose is often poetic—airborne skiffs under attack "dropped like kingfishers" and "twisted in the air like maple seeds"—and the characters have welcome depth. (Apr.)
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The Winds of Khalokovo is filled with clean prose, intelligent language, and brilliant imagination. Reading this fantasy was like sinking my teeth into a rich and exotic dessert. --Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show
Elegantly crafted, refreshingly creative. --C.S. Friedman, Bestselling author of The Coldfire Trilogy
Well worth exploring... --Glen Cook, Bestselling author of The Black Company
The boldly imagined new world and sharply drawn characters will pull you into The Winds of Khalakovo and won't let you go until the last page. --Michael A. Stackpole, New York Times bestselling author of I, Jedi
Exactly the kind of fantasy I like to read. --Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of The Saga of the Seven Suns
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Top Customer Reviews
Russia is one of these. Oh, there have been novels set in Russia's past, but unique cultures and societies based on the grammar of Russian culture are thin on the ground. The only one that comes immediately to mind is Sarah Zettel's Isavalta sequence of novels.
Bradley Beaulieu has decided to help fill in that gap. In the Winds of Khalakovo, Beaulieu introduces us to a secondary world, an archipelago dominated world. The culture of the Landed, the dominant race and people of the islands, borrows heavily from the Russian. Titles of the nobility have a distinctly Russian bent, as do the names for units of the military, governance, names, and more. Food and drink are distinctly Russian. Clothing on this cold world also features traditional modes of Russian dress as well.
That would be enough invention for an epic fantasy world for many, but Beaulieu goes further, adding in an underclass, the Landless Aramahn, whose culture and customs are reminiscent of ancient Persia and the Middle East, and feel much like the Romany of Eastern Europe. The names for the elemental spirits, the various types of hezhan, that the Aramahn have connection to continues this line of inspiration.
The Winds of Khalakovo focuses mainly on three central characters:
Nikandr, Prince of the Khalakovo , youngest son of the reigning Duke and Duchess of that archipelago.
Atiana is a Princess of Vostroma, daughter of the Duke and Duchess. She has a brother, and two sisters.
The two families, Vostroma and Khalakovo, have carefully arranged an impending marriage between them., and the two have known each other, on and off, since they were children. Atiana's brother Borund and Nikandr regard each other as friends.
And then there is Rehada. She is an Aramahn, and has been Nikandr's mistress for some time. And she is, unbeknownst to her royal lover, far more than the wandering Aramahn than she appears to be.
With the politics and tension of the impending marriage hovering over the island, it is exactly at this time that that Maharraht, an outlawed sect of the Aramahn seeking to relieve their oppression, strike out viciously, propelling Nikandr, Atiana and Rehada into their own plans for the future of the islands. And there are others who would take advantage of the chaos, for their own political gain.
Beaulieu takes his time in setting up the central conflict and action in the novel, taking an almost leisurely amount of time to establish his world and his characters before unleashing the first notes of the problem of the novel. While this does allow for readers to get up to speed on an unfamiliar world, I think Beaulieu might have been a bit too leisurely. There are a couple of minor conflicts early on that allow for some character development and tension, but putting off the first major "bang" relatively deep into the book, I think, is problematic. Also problematic, I think, is some of the characterization in the book. The relationship between Nikandr and his sister Victania for example, is something I only really got a handle on from Nikandr's side--there isn't a lot to go on the other side to really round out the relationship. The relationship between Nikandr and Atiana, too, I think, needed a little more work and development. The Nikandr-Rehada relationship, I think, is written in stronger terms.
Those issues aside, however, there is a lot here for epic fantasy fans to sink their teeth into. As I said in the opening to this review, Beaulieu has taken the opportunity to mine some unexplored veins for ideas in this secondary world. There is a genius to use Russian culture on a world template--an archipelago, very different than one might expect in a Russian culture inspired novel. Archipelagos are an uncommon and underused setting for secondary world novels. It helps reinforce the secondary world feel of the book and is a great choice, I think, for the world building.
Unusually for secondary world fantasy, gunpowder or something like it does work in this universe. The soldiers and other characters carry single shot muskets, and there are cannon on ships and fortifications.
And then there are the airships. While there are indications that there are ships that brave the aquatic currents between the islands and archipelagos, the primary conveyance between islands are flying ships, powered and propelled by Aramahn who can control spirits of wind and life. Beaulieu takes full advantage of these windship. They are lovingly described in detail, and in contrast to the otherwise Russian terminology, Beaulieu uses Western naval names for ship parts and types of ships. Given the lack of a real naval tradition in Russia, this choice does make sense, but it does break the Russian immersion of the culture a little bit. As you might expect, a lot of the action scenes in the novel take place on board the ships, and there is airship-airship duels and combats. This allows the author to insert a fair share of swashbuckling and feats of derring do.
Another excellent bit of development in the novel is the differing approaches to magic by the Landed, Nikandr and the other families, and the Landless Aramahn. While the latter control elemental spirits and have the most visible magic, the Matra of the families of the duchies have a magic all of their own, their own methods of magic an interesting contrast, and far more subtle than summoning hezhan.
For a first novel, Beaulieu shows a good command of language. The book is written in a third person past tense point of view, except for some special situations. Although I thought it was a mistake by the author at first, those times when he breaks that tense and point of view combination are deliberate, and are a subtle signal to the reader of something I will allow you to discover as I did.
(A longer version of this review originally appeared at the Functional Nerds)
Beaulieu has created a unique world, but has borrowed pieces of earth's historical culture that works far better than one might imagine. There are several diverse cultures represented:one reminiscent of late 18th century Russia, one with elements of the Ottoman Empire and another that seems an amalgam of several societies of Earth's past with Middle Eastern and Native American elements included. .
While their is one central character, the story follows several. Their relationships weave a complex tapestry with the cultures lending credence to their motivations. The story progresses with changing alliances and shifting allegiances. As I read this series I often felt as if I was next to the characters. I was a windsman on a ship following the ley lines. I felt the cold of the drowning basin, comparing it to diving in Monterey Bay in February. I felt the passion of Nikandr for his country, his deep sense of duty. I understand the Maharrat's outrage at the theft of their lands, similar to that of the Native Americans at the mercy of the Europeans.
The Lays of Anuskaya is a voyage I will gladly take again in the future, reliving the steps that lead to the very satisfying outcome. I do wonder, however, if the spelling "lays" of the title is a misspelling of "leys" or whether it is a very subtle pun. In the end, it matters not. If you seek a true change of pace, Beaulieu delivers. I hope he is writing his next journey into this or another world.