Desert Isle Keeper
The Wind Witch
This is one of those rare books that can wake me up in the middle of the night, insisting that I re-read certain parts. When I sneak back to bed, my heart is filled with wolves and moonlight.
Plain Druyan has recently become a widow after a having been wed to a smallholder in coastal Esdragon. The marriage was arranged by her family and was not a particularly happy one. If no one finds out her husband has died and she manages to pay all the tithes for a year and a day, her farm, Splaine Garth, will belong to her. Then she would be her own woman and no one would have the right to marry her off ever again. It is a small dream but it is all that Druyan has to cling to.
Her problem is that Esdragon is being raided and the duke has conscripted her farmhands. But a solution is at hand. The people of Splaine Garth have just beaten off a raid and captured an injured raider. So Druyan, armed with a pitchfork, decides to convince her captive to work for his freedom for the necessary year and a day.
What she gets in her captive is Kellis, the raiders’ seer. Kellis joined the raiders to reach Esdragon, and the wizard city of Kôvelir, where he hopes to finish his training. On learning about the raiders’ killings, he feels honor-bound to serve Druyan, although he knows little of farming and is severely allergic to iron. He suffers terrible headaches from his unclear visions of the future. Kellis is also a shapechanger, taught to sing the Wolf Song.
What he doesn’t know is that Druyan shares both his witch powers and his lack of training. Druyan knows herself to be a poor wind witch, but she is willing to trust Kellis’ flawed visions of future raids enough to ride to warn her countrymen. In wolfshape, Kellis secretly follows Druyan across the country to protect her in case he is as wrong as he fears. Finally, Druyan learns to trust not only Kellis, but also her own powers over the winds. In doing so , she frees herself from the constraints that have always hobbled her and chooses her own future and true happiness.
This is a low-key story of trust that grows into love, told at a measured pace. Druyan and Kellis have plenty of common sense and spend much time together. Both have been roughly handled by life but manage to rise above this. Trusting the other one comes far easier for both of them than trusting themselves. Although they have secrets, there are few misunderstandings. Both are ready to sacrifice their personal happiness for the happiness of the one they love, which always brings out my hanky.
What makes this book a true keeper for me is the depth of feeling between hero and heroine. While other readers may find the absence of passionate phrases grating, I find that the very silence adds to the poignancy. I never had much use for the rhetoric of romance and if a hero proves himself as true and loving as Kellis, he deserves the heroine’s love even without the “I love you.”
The secondary characters add to and support the story, without being too sketchy. First among them is Druyan’s magical horse, Valadan, with his dry comments and supernatural speed. Druyan’s arrogant brother, Robart, and the farm’s housekeeper, Enna, add both to the humor and to the conflict. There are many sweet smiles along the road. The interaction between Kellis and the sheep dogs is hilarious, and Druyan’s suitor, Yvain, is the essential knight from a troubadour’s chanson. And I will never again underestimate the dangers of being kicked by a shod horse.