Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

November 8, 2010

George RR Martin & Lisa Tuttle – Windhaven

Filed under: review,sf — Tags: , — Sam @ 5:50 pm

This is a paste-up job—three linked novellas, revised & continued from an original story in Analog of May 1975, The Storms of Windhaven. The first, which is essentially the original novella, is your basic story of a girl longing to join the elite hereditary caste of flyers properly. Their wings, made from the solar sails of the crashed starship which brought all their ancestors to Windhaven, are getting rarer every year as flyers are lost at sea, and Maris—the adopted daughter of a flyer, but forced to hand over his wings to his genetic heir—is determined to bring in new blood so that anyone can challenge a flyer for their wings.

She succeeds, of course, and keeps hers after all, while her stepbrother gets the musical career he wanted all along. So far, so Pern without the dragons.

The second novella, however, shows us some of the societal consequences of this massive change. The new academy, named Woodwings after a popular cautionary tale, isn’t thriving too well; it’s been seven years and not produced any flyers yet. Maris has returned to teach, but there’s a controversial new pupil, determined to win wings and become one of the flyers he hates, rejecting all their traditions. We get to see a lot of social ruptures on a very personal scale, and some vicious political infighting. Again, it ends on a happy, successful note, but it’s very clear that there are a lot of societal changes yet to come.

The third follows Maris still, to the island of Thayos, where she gets caught up in politics between the flyers and the land-born ruler. The text brings in the classic 1970s SF motif of the songs that change everything, and the power of musicians, but it’s also thoroughly problematized—it’s made clear throughout the three novellas that songs sung of heros may not show what happened, but it doesn’t stop them being true.

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