HARPY’S FLIGHT was Lindholm’s first novel, and the first in the WINDSINGERS series, which introduced her popular gypsy characters, Ki and Vandien. Across the mountain sheathed with ice, through the treacherous shadow of the Sisters, Ki was running for her life, followed by Harpies, sworn to vegance; by the bitter memories of a once-idyllic past; and by one stubborn, dark haired man who seemed intent on being part of her future.
This is the first book written by the same person who writes as Robin Hobb, and was published way back in 1983. After reading this, it is very apparent how much her writing improved between here and Assassin’s Apprentice. If I didn’t know any better, I’d never have guessed that this book was written by the same person. It’s very unlike her current style; her prose is a lot leaner and the story is self-contained.
However, while the writing was descriptive and vivid, she described what felt like every single thing that happens such that it felt as though every single step Ki takes is documented. Given the compact nature of the story, the prose served to weigh it down and make it ponderous. Initially I considered setting this book aside because it was such a slog reading it. Once the flashbacks start, I’d adjusted somewhat and the story finally started to interest me. Hobb’s strength is in writing wholly realistic characters that have multiple sides to them. Here, there are the glimmers of potential showing in her characters that she knew what she was doing in writing them and that one day she’d be really good at it (which she became). Still, at this point, it was merely average.
I did like how the story was structured through alternating the present time with flashbacks that described what happened to Ki and the things she learned that put her in the situation she’s in. I thought it worked especially well in setting up why the harpies weren’t to be trusted and how dangerous they really were. I actually enjoyed the flashbacks more than the present-day scenes because it felt as though more things actively happened, particularly with the letting go of memories ceremony and Ki’s attempts to free herself from her husband’s family’s grasp to stay and live out the rest of her life among them. The present sections almost felt like they were set-up for later books starring Ki and Vandien. In this first book, we meet these two and learn something about who they are (mostly Ki), and by the end they decide to become partners. Also, while there was a connection between the flashbacks and the present day with the harpies, the occurrences in each time period felt like separate stories, as though they were barely to each other. Besides a vague relation to the events in the flashbacks via the rigged mission the merchant sent Ki on in the present, it felt tenuous.
On the whole, this book was an average debut. It shows that Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb definitely had writing talent and ability, but was still figuring things out in terms of writing the stories she wanted to tell. Given how much I love Robin Hobb’s books (minus the Soldier Son trilogy), it’s clear she grew so much as a writer between then and when she first started writing as Robin Hobb. I don’t think I’d recommend the book unless you’re curious about the author’s first published book.
Disclosure – library