Wind Singer

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Wed May 30 18:13:16 EDT 2001

On Thu, 31 May 2001 09:08:42 +1200, Elizabeth Evans wrote:

>Our largest city bookshop has a lovely display right in the front of the
>store, of about 5 DWJ titles, plus a couple of Bartlett books and HP4. There
>is also a book which I haven't heard of before: Wind Singer by William
>Nicholson. Has anyone read this, or heard anything about it? It looked quite
>tempting, but my life is so busy at the moment, I think I would need some
>positive reinforcement before I allow myself to be distracted by something

Ahhhh.  Really good book.  I need to buy this one.  Too bad I'm so forgetful
of details, because I've only read it once and for some reason the names
didn't stick with me.  Ah well, someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

The Wind Singer of the title is an object that was built into a tower by
some mysterious traveling people centuries before the book begins.  It was
supposed to protect the city from evil, particularly this ravening horde of
evil whose name I've forgotten, but in recent times, a king gave up the Wind
Singer to someone he hoped would protect the city (apparently not having
faith in this ancient artifact).  This person protected the city but turned
out to be just as bad, and the wonderful civilization they had created
started to fall apart.

When the book starts, the city has become a rigidly stratified society where
people's position is determined by their whole family's standing: for
example, if your kid doesn't do well on their 1-year-old birthday test
(like, are they walking, are they trying to talk, etc.) then it drags the
whole family's rating down.  Different "classes" are marked by
color--orange, white, blue, red, I can't remember exactly, but it's a sort
of Brave New World-lite without the obligatory "I'm SOOOO glad I'm an Alpha"
chant.  The main characters are a boy and his sister, whose family is
already struggling in the ratings because their dad can't seem to do well on
his Head of Household exam.  All of them think the situation stinks, but
they don't know what they can do about it.  So they all rebel in little ways
that turn out to be not so little, and eventually the brother and sister end
up fleeing for their lives out of the city, accompanied by a
low-intelligence classmate who's become attached to them because they're the
only ones who were ever nice to him.  Their flight becomes a quest to find
the missing Wind Singer and restore order to their city.

The reason I liked this book so much is that it's a Young Adult novel which
doesn't take the usual route of getting the (frequently stupid or
misunderstanding) parents out of the way so the kids can Save the World.
While the main plot does focus on the children's quest, we also get to see
what happens to the parents who are left behind--the mother becomes a
"prophetess," and the father begins a little rebellion of his own.  It
really is a book about a whole family, and as an adult I think I was more
interested in what the parents were doing than the kids.

It's supposed to be the first book of a trilogy, but I have no idea how,
because all the plot elements are so neatly tied up at the end of *this*
book.  Not that there aren't more stories to be told; it's a fairly complex
world, even if it looks simple because we see such a small part of it.  I
just can't see what big question could be answered by a trilogy that isn't
answered here.  I'm looking forward to the next one.

Melissa Proffitt
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