When the Twilight series finally came to an end, and people started to grow tired of the vampire/werewolf fascination that took over young adult novels, a new genre in the YA market emerged as its successor: the dystopian novel. With so many new titles appearing on shelves over the past few years – The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, Matched… the list is endless – it’s understandable why older books of a similar nature have been forgotten. Although William Nicholson’s first book in The Wind on Fire trilogy, The Wind Singer, isn’t exactly dystopian, it has similar themes of oppression, guilt and loyalty in the face of adversity.
Aramanth, a city once promised to be free from the evils of the Morah, has become home to a segregated society, where the lost Emperor has been replaced by the Chief Examiner. Each individual’s status is based on endless tests and exams, starting from as young as two years old. However, when Kestrel Hath decides to declare her disdain for the repressive meritocracy that has ruled her life since birth, she must escape the city with her twin brother, Bowman, and her new friend Mumpo, to seek out a forgotten relic that will set her family free.
”But rest assured: while the first couple of chapters may seem a bit odd, the rest of the book could be enjoyed by anyone’’
Initially, this may seem like a rather childish premise, what with the 10-year old main characters and a name like “Mumpo”. But rest assured: while the first couple of chapters may seem a bit odd, the rest of the book could be enjoyed by anyone. The inherent sense of excitement at the heart of the quest from which the story unfolds is infectious and so when our heroes and heroine meet all sorts of people along the way – from the Old Children to the rivalling desert clans Ombaraka and Omchaka – it’s impossible not to feel a sense of adventure. Besides, as a student, it’s rather fun to live vicariously through Kestrel as she seeks to rebel against a life of endless exams and constant pressure to do well.
”Personally, I tend to prefer the fast pace of dialogue compared to the longer passages of description, but Nicholson has this incredible skill of ensuring the reader visualises the story so vividly’’
However, one of the best things about this book – the main reason I have re-read it time and time again over the past 10 years – is the imagery. Personally, I tend to prefer the fast pace of dialogue compared to the longer passages of description, but Nicholson has this incredible skill of ensuring the reader visualises the story so vividly; perhaps this is due to Nicholson’s background as a screenwriter, having been twice nominated for an Academy Award with credits including Gladiator (which came out in the same year as The Wind Singer, 2000) and 2012’s Les Misérables. Images of entire civilisations contained within ships or an infinite army of eerily perfect children are conjured up with exquisite attention to detail allowing for a much more immersive experience.
So whether you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the film Stardust (both of which have that similar feel of an epic journey), or simply bored of the current crop of books on offer, The Wind Singer is a gem to be unearthed from forgotten YA classics.
Image credit: Sarah Quraishi