Children of the Wind by Geraldine Harris
Children of the Wind by Geraldine Harris is the second book of the Seven Citadels series. I enjoyed the first book, Prince of the Godborn, so much that I went out of my way to order the rest. And after a few difficult books in a row, I decided it was time to dip back into Zindar and see what Kerish and Forollkin were up to.
Thankfully, book two offers up a lot of what I loved about book one: realistic characters and conundrums, interesting theological and philosophical pondering, and excellent lore.
I primarily read books for the characters, so I was pleased that Kerish and Forollkin embarking on their journey—for realsies, this time—only made them more interesting. They love each other even though their differences of upbringing, personality, priorities, and sensibilities sometime gets in the way. They work well together—except when they don’t—and they follow that peculiar yet realistic habit of picking on each other while absolutely refusing to allow anyone else to engage in the same practice.
One thing Harris really understands is that people—and not just bad guys—are illogical and unreasonable. I think this is why, more than any other book or series I’ve read recently, the Seven Citadels series feels like its characters could walk off the page into real life.
The realistic depth of Kerish and Forollkin is mirrored in an expanded cast. At the end of the first book, they’re joined by an angry, venomous companion named Gidjabolgo. While often difficult, he has a penchant for cutting to the heart of the matter and forcing the brothers to confront things as they are—not as they want them to be. In time, I grew to really appreciate Gidjabolgo’s trolling.
Another new cast member is Gwerath*, the daughter of a plains chieftain. Inquisitive about life outside of her small world, she takes to Kerish and Forollkin with palpable desperation. I appreciate her addition to the book. She’s more than just a strong female character, she’s vulnerable, insightful, pig-headed and often in the wrong. Ie, she’s real. And unlike Gidjabolgo’s expected trolling, Gwerath adds uncertainty. I like this added instability, as it shows us even deeper into the brother’s character.
Another nice addition is that of a cat sidekick. Harris strikes a good balance with the kitter—she's around when it adds to the scene; she isn’t when it would be one more body to have to keep tabs on. My favorite part of the cat, though, is that it teases out a story about the creation of the first cat that is delightful. Again, Harris excels with her lore.
Her lore is more than pretty stories, though. It raises theological, moral, political, and philosophical points that would stop me in my tracks.
Whereas C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman wrote their own views heavily into their fantasy for children, Geraldine Harris merely trots an idea out, and lets the reader chew on it.
For example, we meet a tribe of people who we know for a fact worship a woman who is not a goddess. Gidjabolgo, the resident troll, points out Kerish and Forollkin’s faith even as our protagonists discuss, with a pandering air of sympathy, the tribespeople’s faith in a fake god—forcing them to put their own religion under scrutiny, if even for a second.
And then the moment naturally moves on. Perhaps the end of the series will bring Harris’s viewpoint to the surface, but based on what I’ve read so far, I doubt it.
One night, I decided to go to go to bed early, then promptly stayed up two hours later than normal because I couldn’t stop reading.
Strangely, this was my least favorite part of the book. Up until this point, all danger and tension had resulted from easily definable foes: the brigands of Fangmere, sea-monsters, mad wizards, drug-crazed lunatics. I know it’s cheap, but I like that. I hate feeling conflicted. I hate situations where there’s no good solution and everyone is acting in a way that both makes sense and seems good to them, but hurts everyone else. As much as I love realistic writing, it’s too real and I’m way too stressed to handle that sort of thing on a regular basis.
I persevered, though, and was granted some light-hearted reprieve before the end of the book, at which point I immediately rolled into book three.
I’m still quite smitten with Seven Citadels as a series, and I think this would be a fantastic series for actual young adults. Everything is so darn appropriate while also being deep. I’d have eaten these up as a kid, and I very well might order another set or two to hand out to nibblings; that’s how much I like them.
* I love Gwerath's name. It's beautiful and unique and, at least by Western standards, not feminine sounding.
Cover art by: Unknown :(