Tor.com, 144pp standard paperback (novella), £9.02 print on-demand
£1.96 on Kindle (Jan 2016)
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
Taking advantage of a latent Amazon gift credit, this was an impulse purchase for me, helped immeasurably by the brilliant cover art by Cynthia Sheppard – from what I can tell, I’m not the only one that loves this cover – proof positive (if it were needed) that a great cover can make a massive difference to sales…
Anyway, it’s a decision I didn’t regret, and this is possibly one of my fave reads of the year already. The blurb tells of Dragon Ships, ravaged coastline towns, weather-shaping Windspeakers and stolen magic, so what’s not to like? It’s a novella as well, and I’m massively impressed at just how much content debut author Emily Foster has managed to cram into this high-seas adventure tale.
Tazir and Chaqal are female captain and quartermaster respectively of the not-so-good ship, Giggling Goat (actually an old fishing boat but anyway…) and at the start of this far-reaching adventure they’re arguing in a dockside tavern, a place they use to court those wanting passage between the many islands of Tahiri, not the easiest of pursuits given that Dragon Ships are tearing up and down the trade lanes and wrecking everything in their path.
Along comes a young woman called Shina, who is not only stinking rich but clearly more than the innocent victim of a forced marriage that she purports to be. In short order, we discover she is a Windspeaker, and potentially one of the last of her kind, unless she can recover a stolen idol from the marauding Dragon Ships. And so begins an adventure with far-reaching consequences for all on board.
The magic system and the world-building is well realised, the concept of replacing a Windspeaker’s eyes with stone is frankly bizarre, and the manner in which windstorms can be coughed up (in the most literal sense) even moreso. Nonetheless, this novella has zeal and pathos in abundance, some great writing in places, and when push comes to shove, is primarily a ship-bound adventure. Again, what’s not to like? Recommended reading.