Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Review #6: The WindSinger

This week's book review is Peggy Harkins' unique contemporary fantasy, The WindSinger.  You may remember that back in July, Harkins spoke to my local SCBWI chapter about her foray into self-publishing.  (You can read my meeting summary here.)  As I mentioned in that post, I was lucky enough to win a copy of The WindSinger signed by the delightful Peggy Harkins herself.  I was thrilled to discover the book can actually be categorized under my favorite genre of "animal fantasy" (at least in my opinion) and eager to see how a self-published book stacked up to those published by the bigger houses.
Here's the book blurb from Harkins' website:
James Braden was like any other twelve-year-old boy, except for one thing. He had a secret. A big one. As a young child, James had slipped away from a family outing and vanished into the forest. He reappeared three days later – alone but unharmed, and miles from where he was last seen. Where had he been? Who had helped him? James wouldn't say. He had promised to say nothing about meeting the WindSinger.

The WindSinger was a creature with the power to care for and heal all living things. She suspected she was the last of her kind. Because humans had exterminated many members of her species, she'd been taught to fear them. Yet, in the three days they spent together, she made a connection with James that would cross time and space.

Nine years after their first encounter, the WindSinger came back into James's life. This time it was she who needed help. Conscious of the debt he owed her, James willingly became her protector. But he didn't anticipate the dangers he'd face in returning to the forest with her. What happened there would leave him with an even bigger secret. And it would change his life forever.
The story is told primarily from two perspectives--James' and Z'Nia's--with a few chapters here and there from other side-characters' POV's.  Because Z'Nia is a Tazsmin--a bigfoot-like creature with the ability to communicate via mind-link--I think this totally counts as an animal fantasy.  What I particularly love is the way Harkins has Z'Nia "speak" and think.  You can tell Harkins put a lot of thought into her word choices, phrasing, and Z'Nia's general attitude.  She is mature in comparison to humans, but youthful within her own species.  There is also a distinctly non-human quality about her "speech" that is rather magical and allows the reader to see through to the very core of the Tazsmin society and beliefs.  It's enlightening to experience the world through Z'Nia's filter--and an enviable author-talent if you write animal fantasies!
The second thing I want to impress is how The WindSinger breaks all those stereotypes and misconceptions that self-published books are "lesser" books.  The publishing house Harkins chose, Author House, did a wonderful job across the board with her book.  Everything about The WindSinger looks professional, from the layout and editing to the paper quality and beautiful chapter title fonts.  (There are even whimsical little designs between the section breaks in the book.)  Harkins' self-designed cover is visually appealing, and in my opinion, looks just as enticing as any of the novels you'd find on a bookstore shelf.  Of course, as pretty as a book may be, it's the content that's important and I'm pleased to report that Harkins does not disappoint.  The plot and perspectives of The WindSinger are truly unique (and even better than some of the traditionally published books I've read!)  The plot is gripping, the characters are engaging, and the powerful themes are conveyed in a quiet, dignified way.  I'm very happy to say I didn't find a single "unprofessional" thing about The WindSinger during my reading experience.  :)

If you like books about self-discovery and seeing the world through another's eyes, then The WindSinger is definitely for you.  If you're thinking about jumping into the self-publishing pool, then you should certainly pick up this book to see what kind of product your own novel could be.  And though you can't find The WindSinger in stores (at least not yet!), you can buy it online from Harkins' website and  (It's even an easy-to-download e-book now, too!)  Despite all the misconceptions, self-publishing is no easy feat.  It takes a special kind of writer to brave the publishing world on her own and create an outstanding book from scratch--then somehow get that book into the hands of readers!  I am so happy I had the chance to read this book and pass my experience along to you.  I wish Harkins the best of luck with The WindSinger and hope she brings us many more great books in the years to come.
You can check out Harkins' website at: 
And if you pick up a copy of this awesome book, let me know!  I'd love to hear what you think.  Happy reading!
Note: Cover art and book blurb are both from Harkins' website.     

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