Pros:Excellent characters, realistic universe, superb story, beautiful illustrations
It isn't often that a book so enraptures me I forget to do things like, well, sleep. A Whisper of Wings is such a book.
In this novel, Kidd paints a portrait of a rich, three-dimensional world. This realm is populated with fantastic creatures called "Kashra," anthropomorphic foxes with butterfly wings and antennae. These beings coexist with a lush tapestry of spirits, called "Ka," and worship the deities Mother Rain and Father Wind.
Kashran society in the alpine tribes has stagnated under the rule of the upper castes. From the first chapters in this book, the stage is set for an uprising of epic proportion. Out of this chaos two saviors arise, opposed to each other like night and day... And this world only has room for one life philosophy.
One of the main characters in the book, Shadarii, is a mute, overweight outcast in her tribe. There were times when I felt her pain so acutely, I wanted to put the book down or skip ahead just so that I could make her stop hurting. But Kidd's writing drew me onward, through the pain and misery that Shadarii faced. Shadarii's sister, Zhukora, is equally well drawn. Her fierceness and conviction almost had me cheering her on in her quest to free her people from oppression.
The other characters, while paling in comparison to Shadarii and Zhukora, are just as real and tangible as the sisters. The Kashrans' theology is compelling, and their culture is logical and believable.
The book I got was soft-bound as a rugged trade paperback, and I expect to get a lot of mileage out of it. But the real bonus is the wonderful artwork by Terrie Smith. Full color covers and twenty black and white full page images accompany Kidd's wonderful story.
With so many things going for it, this book is almost perfect. But when I began to reach the end of the book, I couldn't help but start drawing comparisons between Kidd's book and a fairly well-known story from Western religion. (I won't tell you which one, because I don't want to spoil the story for you!) It got so distracting at one point, I set down the book to jot down the analogies I found.
An old saw goes: "There are only seven plots in the world, and all stories are a variations on those plots." Did Kidd base his book on the story I think he did? If so, I wouldn't hold it against him. A Whisper of Wings is simply superb, no matter how you read it - a unique story about flying foxes, or an allegory about good and evil. The book is subtitled "Book One of the Kashran Cycle," so we can hopefully look forward to more in this world!
In a few months I'll have the chance to meet this author at a convention I am attending. Perhaps I'll be able to ask him both about my suspicions of the plot's origin, and about a second book. And, of course, I'll have to get him to sign my copy of A Whisper of Wings!
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