book review: Cloak of the Two Winds

Piracy! Magic! Strange creatures! Sword fights! Love!

Like The Princess Bride, this book combines a number of beloved fantasy elements into a riveting story that satisfies on many levels. Yet despite the familiar tropes, there is nothing derivative about this book; the world of Cloak of the Two Winds, called Glimnodd, is entirely its own. The book’s main characters are Iruks, from the south polar region. In some ways they are similar to our world’s Inuit, but they have no problem switching from hunting to piracy when a likely target appears. The Iruk hunting party’s boat is as versatile as the hunters: with a quick conversion, it can sail as easily on ice as it can on water. This is a necessary capability because the waters of Glimnodd change to ice, and back again, at a moment’s notice–and the shifts are becoming more and more unpredictable and drastic. The Iruks’ piratical venture soon embroils them in Glimnodd’s climate-change emergency, which all revolves around a stolen cloak with the power to control the winds that cause freezing and melting. Of more immediate concern to the Iruk hunting band, one of their members has disappeared. The only person who may be able to help them find and rescue her is the witch whose ship they raided–a witch who is being pursued by at least one of Glimnodd’s most powerful magic workers.

This book had me at “ice pirates,” but the story was even richer than I expected. I quickly came to care about the characters, and the devotion the members of the hunting party had for each other was truly moving. I found the magical system intriguing and loved its mystical elements of seeing into the Deepmind, a kind of collective unconscious. We meet a few different cultures in this book, but the Iruk culture is the primary one, and its customs are portrayed so deftly that it is easy to imagine being part of that society (which appears, by the way, to practice full gender equality). In sum, Cloak of the Two Winds is a riveting fantasy adventure set in a fascinating world, and I recommend it highly. (Also, while this is not a YA novel per se, I think it would make a great YA read.)

Here’s hoping there will be another book soon to follow!