Genre: fantasy – sword and sorcery
Queer Representation: cis lesbian
Warnings: ableism, ‘almond eye’ and other food-based descriptions, consent issues
Nemsa is born into a world with stagnating landscapes and dried husks of people – a land without wind (don’t think about pollination and other critical life elements too hard or the premise unravels). Her arrival at a small village and the death of the wind seem a coincidence, and Nemsa grows up in a small village surrounded by anger and suspicion.
Of course Nemsa is not to blame. How could she be, having only one eye and one good leg? Still, the weight of blame from the villagers is crushing, so she goes on a quest restore the winds once she comes of age. While wandering from her village, Nemsa meets Xenthia–a Sky Whisperer–who may be able to help her restore the wind. Their target – the old, vengeful Sun Whispered. Along the way Nemsa discovers her Chosen One heritage, enjoys some celestial sex, and interacts with a fairly generic fantasy world.
The cover of this book was gorgeous, which gave me higher expectations than I think I should have had going in. And I’m not sure if the writing is a problem because of translation issues or just authorial skill. Regardless, SKYWHISPERERS reads more like a belabored fantasy coffeeshop AU than a book, with extended emotions that rehash scenes from multiple character POVs, dialogue that doesn’t advance the plot, and a plot that only occasionally shows it head. The book is much more romance than fantasy, more of a romance set in a fantasy setting where the plot is occasionally brought around to remind the reader there is a purpose other than having sex with a Sky Whisperer. There’s an engaging story buried within, which could have been told in half the number of pages, and without the tortured ableism.
Nemsa is introduced to the reader as having a bad leg that causes a limp, and only one functional eye. This is yet another avenue of scorn from the villagers, and early on in the book we see a lot of the expected bemoaning around these disabilities.
But, even with her true heritage revealed, how can crippled and one-eyed Nemsa’s destiny be linked with that of the much older, immortal Sky Whisperer she grows fonder of by the day?
I’d hoped Nemsa might come to acceptance or find creative workarounds, or found she had great power in some other aspect of herself. Alas, she is slowly healed throughout the book (healing sex! take a drink!), and by the end she is ‘whole’ (she was never not whole to begin with).
Then, I experienced the most enlightened moment I had ever felt in my life. Suddenly, I could see with both eyes it seemed.
The cloud grew in size almost straight away and became yellow and red for a moment. I experienced a bright jolt of pain in my bad leg. But then, as I looked down on my left leg, which had always been crooked with the knee slightly swollen, I immediately noticed the difference. It looked the same as my other leg now and…as straight.
I swallowed hard at her sudden poetic outburst. ‘Yet, I haven’t lost hope and I know you haven’t. So, we are going to save the world, together,’ she looked away at my abandoned stick, then at my leg and nodded.
‘At least you can walk properly now and I don’t have to carry you.’
I walked away, glad to finally be able to properly without seeming feeble.
I felt whole.
There’s some really pretty (if not sometimes confusing) imagery in this book
All of my life, there had been no wind until she came. I had known only stale and fetid air–the dust only moved by the shuffling of my feet–so that when it started to swirl, I grew frightened.
That’s when I see her. She comes down the path towards me; the stark blue of her robe standing out among the red rocks like a picture I had once seen. My mother called it a forget-me-not.
Which is unfortunately paired with the very problematic food-based racial descriptors and various ‘exotic beauty’ references:
Still, to me, she appeared very much like a frightened, fragile bird. A bird with her wings clipped even. How could this girl possess any powers? Pretty though, mind you, in an innocent and sweet way, even if she had no idea how attractive she actually was. Or could become with her skin like dark honey, her almond-shaped tawny eye, and the strange hairstyle of the village people; giving her a certain appeal.
And then to top it all off, there’s some problematic consent issues:
I tried to stop her several times, but she thought it was for her sake. That too. Of course. How could I let her do this after all? She would die before her time. Suffer, catch the Sickness like so many others…How could I be so selfish? But I wasn’t. Xenthia ensured me that I wasn’t. She did this to save Lorian.
I started to cry, but she kissed my eyes. She felt my guilt, my inner torment.
‘It’s the only way, Nemsa, and you know it. We need you. I need you. I want to help and gladly. Please, open yourself up to me and let me love you,’ Xenthia said, her voice husky with desire.
With the right editing, this book has a lot of potential. Unfortunately there are too many problematic elements and tropes to make it an engaging read, even if you are into coffeeshop AUs.
Seek your destiny with the wind by buying the book here.