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Windhaven    by George R. R. Martin & Lisa Tuttle order for
by George R. R. Martin
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2012 (2003)
Softcover, Paperback, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's rare to read an SF novel that covers the entire life of its heroine. George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle take that approach in their story of Maris of Amberly, who starts life as a fisherman's daughter on Windhaven, a stormy water world of isolated islands. Though trading boats do move between these islands, communication is mainly handled by silver-winged flyers.

Even as a small child, Maris is fascinated by flyers and loves to watch them in the sky and as they land. Russ, who doesn't 'have any little flyers' of his own, befriends her and eventually adopts her. He trains her a a flyer and Maris is a natural. Russ passes his wings to her when the sky is lost to him, and she loves the flyer's life. Garth becomes a good friend and Dorrel is that and more.

But now Maris faces losing her wings as Russ did have a child of his own, and Coll will soon be of an age to inherit the wings. Tradition rules even though Maris is a better flyer than Coll will ever be, and despite the fact that Coll yearns for a different life, that of a singer. So a desperate Maris challenges tradition, calling for a flyers' Council. She speaks out for change.

Wings are made from metal taken from the original star sailors' crippled ship. Always a scarce resource, they are becoming even more so as unskilled flyers are lost at sea. Maris proposes the establishment of 'a flyers' academy open to all' and an annual competition where candidates can challenge flyers for their wings, so that only the best will ride the winds.

Coll writes a song about 'the girl who wanted wings so much she changed the world.' But, as the rest of the novel shows, changing the world can have unexpected consequences! Seven years later, only one land-bound has taken wings, though Maris works with the trainees. Academies are being closed. And after embittered Val One-Wing competes, Maris's relationship with Dorrel and other flyers is damaged.

Finally, we see an older Maris badly injured and having to face the loss of her own wings. But she gradually realizes that she still has a key role to play in disturbing events that are continued consequences of her original actions - as Coll reminds her, 'You can't change one note in the middle of a song.' Windhaven is an excellent, recommended read.

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