It took me a bit to get into Chasers of the Wind, and it was a rough ride at times, but I ended up enjoying this book quite a bit. Color me surprised because as I look back it was something of a grab-bag fantasy; a little bit of everything was thrown into the mix and most of it was worth keeping.
With a backdrop of an invading hoard led by The Damned, a collective of necromancers with individual names like Typhoid, the book focuses on a small core of characters of various interest. A married couple, very much still in love, and with a strong reason to hide could be considered the protagonists of the story and carry it well. It is refreshing to see Gray and Layan take turns helping each other in true teamwork. A barbarian warrior is paired with a gambler to make up another pairing. While educated Northern barbarians are almost cliché at this point, the gambler proves to be more adept than his entrance would have suggested.
Then we get to Typhoid, a member of the damned who we first meet on the trail chasing Layan and Gray. On her own she is a compelling character; near immortal and incredibly powerful. On her own she makes a real compelling character who is almost bored in her power, playing small games to keep her interest. But early on she finds herself tied to character with serious intellectual disabilities that made her sections some of the weakest of the book. The poor soul, known only by the name Pork, is borderline vicious on his own and certainly not a character that would be considered a representation to be proud of. I could never tell if he was being played for laughs or supposed to be a tragic figure; mostly I just cringed when he showed up despite the relative awesomeness of his host.
Did I say grab-bag? Let’s see, I already mentioned Gray and Layan, an assassin and a mage of unknown power. We see a northern barbarian and an ancient necromancer. Did I mention archers with snake-like hind ends? Not really sure where they fit in other than a nice random encounter tm but they were there. Necromancers of course lead to zombies, but never before have I seen exploding zombie grenades. Kind of cool.
The story itself unfolds slowly. Where the various pairs fit into the larger picture is a bit hard to figure out; thus far none are taking a dominate role in the obvious battle to come. While their paths are interesting to be sure the lack of an overreaching destination makes the entire journey a bit of a letdown. I ended this book knowing a bit about each of the characters, but without any larger knowledge of the war that sits in the backdrop. I saw little to suggest where this series is going; a reader’s continued interest will largely depend on a cliffhanger ending and how much they connected with the characters.
As I sit right now I think I saw enough to make me want to read the next book; quick paced action and a low page count are definite points in this books favor. It is certainly good enough to recommend that epic fantasy fans should give it a try and make their own decision.
One last note. There was a major detraction to this book that had nothing to do with the story itself. Large amounts of world building notes were stuffed into the story in parenthesis, explaining various terms like an encyclopedia entry. I don’t know if the book was written this way or it was edited in, but it was horribly distracting at times.
Review copy provided by the publisher.