Some weeks ago my wife surprised me with a pair of books from George R.R. Martin’s back catalog (Windhaven and Hunters Run).  Needless to say, with A Song of Ice and Fire being my favorite series of all time, I dove right in starting with Windhaven first (currently reading the other at the time of writing this).  While it pales in comparison to his current epic, Windhaven is a delightful read filled with wonder and imagination.

The story takes place in a world called Windhaven which is a planet made up of almost all water and is scattered with islands where its inhabitants live.  In the planets history, humans came to the planet when their spaceships crash-landed there.  In time the stranded took up a new, primitive life on the islands and their transportation between the islands were from ships they built from materials from their wrecked spaceships.  Most importantly, the sails were made from the shell of their spacecraft, which was made of a very tough, ultra lightweight metal fabric.

In time the humans started to fight and war broke out.  After centuries of war there was peace again, but their ships were destroyed leaving no vessel strong enough for long distance travel.  The islands were without a viable means of communication between each other, but luckily the surviving part of the ship brought round a method to do so.  The fabric from the sails was salvaged and constructed into wings that the humans could use to fly creating a simple method of communication between the islands and the Order of the Flyers was born.

The story of Windhaven takes place centuries after those events and follows the life of a woman named Maris from her early childhood to her death.  In the traditions of the Flyers the wings are passed down through family leading to the Flyer families to be held in high regard, as high as rules of the land and as deities on some islands.  By a twist of fate Maris finds herself being the first person to be a Flyer without being born into a Flyer family and when met with resistance she looks to challenge the archaic traditions of the Order of the Flyers.  The rest of the story is filled with a roller coaster of ups and down as her life spins in and out of control from the consequences of her attempt to alter traditions.

If there is one thing in this story that is a testament to George R.R. Martin it would be the strong characters that reside in the story.  Maris is instantly likable and with her many flaws you can really make a connection and sympathize with her.  All the other characters of the story well written also and I find it quite amazing how, with few words, Mr. Martin can add so much depth to many of Windhaven’s denizens.  As with A Song of Ice and Fire, there may be an interesting plot line and world built, but it’s the humanity of the characters that really sell the story and make it rise above many other novels in its genre.

The writing is also excellent.  The story flows seamlessly, the dialog is believable (a couple of times, a bit cheesy), and the towns, landscapes, and emotions are well described.  The style itself is very simple but also filled with detail making the book read rapidly and suitable for readers of all ages.  I’m guessing that this is where the co-author, Lisa Tuttle comes in as George R.R. Martin’s novels are usually more geared for adult readers with complex prose and archaic words at times as well as being filled to the brim with gruesome violence.  It was nice to read his style in a different, more cheerful light.

In the end, I highly enjoyed Windhaven and wish that there was more of this world to explore (a world such as Windhaven could easily be turned into a wonderful series), but I am very content with just this very imaginative book.  Flying with Maris was exhilarating and exploring the world of Windhaven and the Order of the Flyers with her was an absolute joy.  If you are going into this book with expectations for it to be like Mr. Martin’s more well know work you may be disappointed, but if you are looking for a great quick and imaginative read you can’t go wrong with this.