Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Windcatcher by A.J. Norfield.

I love fantasy novels involving dragons and enjoyed Windcatcher, the first book in the Stone War Chronicles, by A.J. Norfield. Windcatcher is an old-fashioned (in the best sense) traditional fantasy dragon novel. A small squad of soldiers travels deep into enemy territory in an attempt to retrieve a treasure stolen from their kingdom’s ally. The treasure turns out to be something thought to exist only in legends – a dragon egg. He hatches, bonds with one of the soldiers, and becomes an ally in their fight against the enemy.

First person narrators are all the rage these days, and I’m tired of them. I’m especially tired of unreliable first person narrators. Give me a good old omniscient third person narrator any day. It was refreshing to read Windcatcher from that standpoint – it reads like a throwback fantasy novel. 

Windcatcher starts slowly, but I recognize that one has to take the time to do some world building in a long fantasy series. Once the dragon, Galirras, hatches and joins the cast of characters, things really take off.

The author is also a fan of traditional fantasy, and it shows. Sometimes the story is derivative. For example, on page 300 I could hear the Wilhelm scream used in many blockbusters, including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, in this sentence: “The soldier disappeared from sight with a high-pitched scream.” But since the book is well written and well plotted, I can forgive the occasional lapse into cliché.

One way in which the book is not quite traditional is that the author does attempt to work in some diversity. For example, there is a “same gender” couple in the small troop, and the human tells the dragon, “Unfortunately, same gender lovers are heavily frowned upon by some. You often hear about such people being ridiculed, beaten up, or worse. They’re ignorant and small-minded people that do those things. I mean, who gave them the right to judge how others should feel?” (p. 159 of the ebook)

I do wish the Evil Bad Guy had a little more depth. He is pretty much a stereotypical, one dimensional fantasy villain. I’d like some explanation as to why he is evil and what motivates him. I was surprised by a violent episode that occurred at the end of chapter 13. It seemed extreme compared to the tone of the rest of the book, and its only point seemed to be “hey, this guy is really evil!” Perhaps we will learn more in the second book. 

Book one definitely does not stand alone. It stops in the middle of the story, and I’m ready for book two. If you like immersive traditional fantasy novels, especially those involving dragons, I recommend Windcatcher. It will be available in print at the Galesburg Public Library within the next month.

I was given a free digital copy of Windcatcher by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

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