Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: Warrior of the Wind

Author: Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Warrior of the Wind

Reviewed by: Orbit

Other details: Paperback £10.00

Warrior of the Wind by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Orbit

For too many years, the idea of fantasy was to follow the Tolkeinesk route. While there might be different races, such as dwarves and elves, most of these were developments of beings already extant within European myth and folklore. Many of the societies were similarly rooted in European culture, especially the non-technological past. There may or may not have been magic, but that again followed a European tradition. One reason for this was probably because the majority of readers inhabited the English-speaking world and liked the familiar. Gradually, though, the horizons of publishers, readers and writers have expanded to take inspiration from other cultures. While English speakers can make excellent use of this material, writers from the source culture can produce a greater depth of understanding. Some of these works have been in translation, but as the world becomes more multilingual, global writers have been using the cultures they know best to great effect. It enriches the range of literature on our bookshelves.

            Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian writer who has mined his culture and heritage to create a setting that has an alien and authentic feel to it. He has avoided the trap of too many earth creatures – the beasts of burden are horned kwaga. Various other aspects, such as clothing, weaponry, and local terms, set it apart, though at times, there is an overuse of modern idioms.

            Warrior of the Wind is the second book in The Nameless Republic trilogy. It isn’t necessary to read volume one, Son of the Storm, to get a clear idea of what is at stake. There is a vast cast of characters, and it is sometimes easy to forget the relationships between them, but most of the plot revolves around a handful of them. Lilong is a daughter of the Nameless Islands, which are difficult to reach and have taken on a mythical aspect. She, like many of the islanders, is a ‘yellowskin’ caused by a form of albinism. Lilong is able to darken her skin using magic. She left the islands in search of an heirloom, a stone whose properties allow some wielders to do magic, called ibor. Her father took the ibor from the islands and now Lilong is taking it back.

            Danso is of mixed heritage, but his intelligence gave him a place at the University of Bassa, where he learnt about the mythical ibor. After meeting Lilong, he discovers he can use its magical properties. As this volume starts, he is on the run with Lilong and initially heading into the desert. He is prepared to travel with her to the Nameless Islands, but his motive is to find the mythical city of Risisi, the source of ibor. Determined to find them is Esheme. She was once betrothed to Danso but has succumbed to the lure of power, and he killed her way into the position of the Red Emperor of Bassi. She has discovered that she can use ibor when she is pregnant. She is ruthless.

            Kangala is an opportunist and a businessman. His home is on the shores of a lake in the middle of the desert. His method of drawing water from deep wells has been very lucrative, and as he sees the lake shrinking year on year, he decides it is time to take his skills to Bassa and the Red Emperor. On his way, he learns of ibor and changes direction, pursuing those that he believes can lead him to this mythical city.

            While Lilong, Danso and a small group of friends face various dangers as they travel toward the Nameless Islands, Esheme tries to expand her Empire. She is oblivious to the fact that her bloody regime is fermenting rebellion in Bassa.

            There is a lot to like in this book, but it is not without flaws. The modern idioms and large cast of characters are part of it. The map at the beginning of the book is disconcerting as the compass directions are not traditional. North is where we would expect to find south-west, and although the setting is named as the continent of Oon, it is unclear if this is in the northern or southern hemisphere of this world or if it straddles both.

            One thing that the author may have had no say in is the inclusion of a warning notice at the start of the book, telling the reader of all the themes in it that might upset or shock them. An author should be allowed to tell a story without having to consider whom it might just possibly offend. If unpleasantness is necessary for the story, then it needs to be included as the reactions of the characters tell the reader more about them as people. The real world is an ugly place, and unpleasant things that happen in it need to be reflected in literature. It helps readers to understand that there are iniquities in the world and suggest solutions. I’d rather be shocked by what I read than have a bland, unexciting story.

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