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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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I can see why Night Shade Books went under. Good editing makes a world of difference, and theirs obviously wasn’t up to par. It’s not awful - the grammar and syntax errors are somewhere between what I expect from self-published books and Big Five mass market stuff. A good editor, though, would probably have cut out perhaps a fifth of the total word count, without sacrificing any noticeable details, and this book is the most polished of the trilogy.
I read constantly, and I adore long books, because I don’t have to go hunting for new reading material so often, but all three books in this trilogy are overly endowed with superfluous words. If you get impatient with that sort of thing, skip this book. If you aren’t bothered by it, or you can grit your teeth and ignore it - as I did - the story is definitely worth reading. I am not sorry to have bought the books. I’m a little sad, though, because I re-read most of my books once a year or so (I really do read constantly) and I know I’ll want to revisit this story, but I’m not sure I could slog through all the filler again.
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.
The main character in The Winds of Khalakovo is the heir to one of the most powerful royal families that controls the construction of the large air ships that fuels the nation's economy. I really enjoyed this character, especially with him having to deal with debilitating illness and everything it entails. At the beginning of the novel, he's about to have an arranged marriage with the sister of his best friend to link two of the powerful royal families. Things become a little complicated as he has a true love with someone else (even though she's apparently a courtesan, and an undercover terrorist), along with multiple terrorist attacks on air ships leading up to the marriage ceremonies, and the revelation of Nikandr's illness. Here, is where things started to get really weird. Each point of the love triangle is a viewpoint character, and while I at first enjoyed each of them, the terrorist/courtesan does something completely unforgivable yet the author seems to think that the reader will still feel for her afterwards. To expand on this, I'm going to have to go into spoiler territory, so if you haven't read the book yet you should skip to the next paragraph. SPOILER: She is told by her former lover and current terrorist leader sacrifice one of her only friend's newborn baby to summon a powerful spirit, and she does, murdering a total innocent in cold blood. The author tries to redeem her by having her go back to the friends house to try to remove the poisonous talisman, but it's too late as the baby is already dead, and when the family rightfully blames her and attempts to get justice, her terrorist friends murder the entire family (Mom, Father, and Grandfather of the slaughtered baby). The reason the author gives for the character's motivation is that her own child was killed after a terrorist hid in the house of the family babysitting for her, and overeager police burned the building down after they wouldn't turn him over. However, to me this should make her less likely to murder a completely innocent baby and then his entire family (although that wasn't directly), not give her motivation. The character does go through a change of heart later in the story, but I just didn't care, I wanted her to suffer and die for her horrible actions, and I didn't care if she had any redemption. There's another big problem I had with the book that completely frustrated and confused me and is a spoiler to talk about, and that's the actions of Nikandr's supposed best friend. During a hunt, he purposefully shoots and kills his dog for no reason, other than to be spiteful. In fact all of his best friend's horrible actions didn't make any sense, as really the only reason given for them is that they grew apart as friends, with him becoming more like his father along with having a resentment of the power Nikandr's family holds. What made it even worse was the fact that he never has to pay for his actions (at least in this book). /end spoilers
The writing here is very good, but at the same time the very unique Russian setting limited the flow of my reading as a lot of different Russian terms were included. The mix of Russian and normal English worked, but at the same time it could feel a little forced. Overall, while I had problems with the book, I still enjoyed reading it, and I definitely plan to continue the series eventually. I would recommend this book, but with the caveat that not everyone is going to enjoy it. Still, this is a great book that has a lot of redeeming features.