Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell

I’d heard this book was controversial, and that it doesn’t fit easily in any one genre. I’d heard it was sensual and violent in places, and that there were people who had problems with it. Did it put me off? Nope. Rather, it intrigued me. I’m a fan of genre-bending – and genre-blending! Thus, the idea of a fantasy/supernatural romance tale linked to racial issues and the colonisation of America, among other things, provided plenty to provoke my curiosity. But it wasn't at all what I expected after what I'd been hearing.

Unlike most romances, this story begins with a wedding, a fine introduction to the culture and traditions of the tribes. Their normal world is introduced in vibrant colour and passion. It is only after their marriage that Loic and Satha must face the greatest challenges: separation, captivity, abuse, and battles within themselves.

The story is told from alternating viewpoints of both main characters, in such a way as to carry the story onward from the moment the other paused in their tale. There is a wonderfully clear distinction between two points of view; so clear as to make the apparent breaking of the “one-POV” rule irrelevant. The changing viewpoints are easy to follow; at every moment it is clear who is speaking. Their characters influence the words they tell, giving each narrator their personal flavour. This makes for a varied and colourful narrative of the continuous story flow as seen by two highly unique individuals – each of them strong-willed and stubborn.

At the beginning, I was simply plunged into the strangeness of the world described, and the passions of the two tellers. Yet as the tale moved on, parallels to America’s turbulent early years as a colony became more and more unescapable. The same is true of the commentaries revealed about the white man’s enslavement of other races.

The book is also brimming with Biblical allusions, direct quotes, and shadows of more ancient histories. As it moves towards the climax, spiritual elements flood into Loic’s life, and Satha’s too. Though still parted, their stubborn hope begs to be rewarded.

And the end is not really the end. It is as if a section of a larger history has been told, and much more is to come. Yet the story is complete and gives a sense of fulfillment, while leaving many questions to ponder regarding actual history, Christian parallels, and the deeper spiritual message hidden in every line of the manuscript.

Yes, this is a highly unusual book – in my eyes, typical of the new wave of Christian speculative fiction in its refusal to fall into a tidy category. What’s more, Wind Follower is anything but predictable. It is not a comfortable tale, but it is a solemn, mystical adventure, displaying the hero’s journey to his own heart, and the heroine’s discovery of her beloved’s faith in the midst of impossible circumstances. This one will make you think for sure.

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