Friday, March 25, 2011

Weathercock by Melissa Crandall

Title: Weathercock
Author: Melissa Crandall
Series: ??? (has yet to be determined)
Release Date: Jan. 31, 2011
Publisher: Tortuga Press
Pages: 277 (paperback)
Received from Melissa for review.

Weathercock. The name evokes flames and chaos, and a mythic hero who will one day change the world. Young Kinner - betrayed by those he loves and sentenced to die - knows only one thing: in a world where women hold all the power and men are nothing but property, heroes are hard to come by.

Determined to find a life on his own terms, he flees execution only to discover he knows nothing about survival. Used to relying on others, he dreams of rescue. Instead of the Weathercock, what he gets is Rai and Bayna, mercenary soldiers on the run from the determined (and increasingly psychotic) Commander Remeg.

The last thing they need is to play nursemaid to a half-grown whelp, but a madwoman's dark secret soon ties their fates. For a while, things actually go their way until further treachery casts a dark wing over the travelers. Alone once more, Kinner must discover within the bravery and skill to save not only himself, but also his friends.

And what of Weathercock? Can someone who doesn't even exist appear when Kinner needs him most? -Goodreads


It's not very often that I find myself at a loss for words when starting a review. Normally, I have some sort of witty comment or cute exclamation to describe what I thought of a book. But this time, I got nothing. Zip, zilch, nada. Why? Because Melissa Crandall’s Weathercock has, in a way, left me too stunned for words. So I’ll just jump into the review.

Weathercock takes place in a fantasy world similar to our own. Even though I would like to classify it as a medieval-based fantasy, it’s is not entirely so. Yes, people ride around on horses; yes, they shoot arrows instead of guns; and yes, the land is ruled by a queen, but that’s about as far as it goes. The world stands by itself, timeless in its efforts. And even though I’ve come to expect this sort of thing in good fantasy, what really made this setting unique was the fact that women, not men, are the dominating gender. While men are basically kept at home for reproductive purposes, women are ruling, fighting, and conspiring in roles that are traditionally handed to men in fantasy. Even though at first I found the idea a little jarring, I quickly realized that Crandall is in no way trying to say that women are better than men or vice versa. She isn’t even trying to say, “Imagine, what if?” It is just the culture of the book—the way that things are—and her characters' personalities reflect this. They behaved just like I would expect them to behave when conditioned in this kind of environment, regardless of their gender-specific body parts. This fact--this recognition of the characters' reality and it's feeling of completeness--gave it the extra 'oomf' I always look for when reading fantasy.

Even stronger than the effort that Crandall puts into creating her world was the effort she put into creating her characters. Kinner, a young man believed to be sterile, undergoes a quest with his companions—runaway soldiers Rai and Banya—to deliver a sword believed to one day be wielded by the legendary hero who will rise and right the wrongs of the world. Even though the quest sounds traditional, the adventure and its characters are not. Kinner was a quiet boy, unfamiliar to the world and its ways. Rai and Banya were witty, loud--and often hilariously foul--mouthed soldiers. Together, they made an unlikely team, but each one of them pulled their weight to succeed in the end. I think I found Rai and Banya’s relationship the most enjoyable to watch. Despite their age difference (more than 10 years apart), they tease, mock, and threaten each other with respect. The love and loyalty between them felt so solid it was difficult not to laugh out loud when they laughed or cry when they cried. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a friendship in a book as powerful or as realistic as theirs. The villain, Commander Remeg, was also a character I liked. Wait, no, I mean, I hated her. I mean, er....I loved hating her! She was probably the most important element in driving this story forward. A person fighting in the name of love is a powerful opponent, but Crandall shows us exactly how powerful—and how frightening—it can be. Now, I’m not saying what Remeg did was justified, but I understood her reasons and watching her lose her grip on reality made much more an impact on me than any villain seeking world domination ever has. It was like watching a train wreck, and there were points in the story where I actually feared for the safety of Kinner’s world.

I could go on an on, but to do so would just turn this review into spiral of gushing comments and praise. To put it simply, the book was amazing. The plot and setting? Original to the fantasy genre. The characters? Complex and alive. The writing? I savored every word. Weathercock is one of those books that I wouldn’t mind going back and rereading, even though I just finished it a week ago. It was exciting, it was hilarious, it was romantic, it was inspiring, it was gritty, it had thrills and it had chills. It was just a plain ol’ good book, and one certainly worthy of discussion beyond a simple review. Even though a sequel hasn't been officially planned, I’ll be bugging the author about it after she finishes her current novel, “Call of Blood.” This was an all around fantastic book for high fantasy lovers out there, and one of the few that I’ll make an effort to reread again and again and again and again. I’m sure once you get your hands on it you will too.


NOTE: because my blog is advertised as being dedicated to YA and MG fiction, I should warn you that Weathercock is actually a YA/Adult fantasy crossover. There is some sexual content and lots of colorful language, but nothing outrageously gory, violent, or erotic.

A SECOND NOTE: For those of you looking for more information, or for where to purchase Weathercock, you can visit Melissa's website or find it on Smashwords.