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Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

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Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

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REVIEW | The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo's eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo's future.

That's right windships, don't call them airships. Steampunk this is not, but Epic Fantasy of a grand, beautiful, and political scale which uses an elemental magic with wielders of wind and fire taking predominance. The main pitch for The Winds of Khalakovo is Westeros meets Earthsea, which is pretty on-the-money if you add "through the lens of Muscovite Russia" to the end.

Debutist Bradley P. Beaulieu has created an immersive world with The Winds of Khalakovo. Great detail is paid to the world-building blowing life info what could be seen as just a world nearly covered in water yet hides so much more with uncharted islands, hidden refuges, and nefarious political machinations.

Beaulieu doesn't just leave it to one world though as he shows glimpses of an ethereal realm just as interesting and delves deep into the nature and mechanics of his magic and how they are intertwined with the world.

Even amid all the Fantasy it is the characters who you'll remember the best. Each goes through torn loyalties all for believable reasons. The action surrounds Prince Nikandar Khalakovo for the most part as he is thrown into the middle of everything unknowingly, but once he starts he cannot stop as the life and honor of his Dutchy are at stake. It is through his eyes we get to partake of the beautiful culture Beaulieu created with all the Russian touches on politics and even garb, which showcase the prose that was at points very poetical.

The region is ruled by a hereditary line of Dukes with each claiming a chain of islands for themselves, but governed by one Grand Duke. But it is the Duchess's that truly control things as they can set the worlds elements to their will.

Cultures clash as Nikandar's landed people lord over an indigenous population who follow a path more akin to our Eastern beliefs such as the islands belonging to everyone while the Duchys of the world scoff at that thought and use numbers and force to control the lands. Obviously, this leads to escalating problems as factions within each are formed. Yet the Duchys must work with the other group as they are the ones who control most of the magic in the world and make travel and commerce possible.

The only complaint I have is the switching of POVs can be confusing at times, but you get the rhythm down after a while.  I almost wonder if the named chapter aspect from Game of Thrones would have been another element to pick-up on, especially as this story seems likely to widen its cast in the next volume of this proposed trilogy.

The Winds of Khalakovo is a satisfying entry into the Epic Fantasy fold that may seem familiar in some ways, but Beaulieu takes those familiarities and evolves them with his own unique and complex flair. I give The Winds of Khalakovo 8.5 out of 10 hats. The sequel in The Lays of Anuskaya series is titled The Straits of Galahesh will explore a region little seen in the first volume and should be out in April 2012.


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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved the excerpt and I have this on my e-reader. I'll have to move this up on the to be read pile sooner rather than later!

Thanks for the review.

Jennifer

Ondrej from Top Ten Books said...

Sounds like a very decent fantasy, I'm a bit fanatical about this genre so I'll make sure to read it, thanks for the recommendation!