Bradley P. Beaulieu's debut fantasy book, The Winds of Khalakovo, was published by Night Shade Books in March 2011. It's the first book of The Lays of Anuskaya series.
Here's information about the author:
Bradley P. Beaulieu is the author of The Winds of Khalakovo, the first of three planned books in The Lays of Anuskaya series. In addition to being an L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award winner, Brad's stories have appeared in various other publications, including Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future 20, and several anthologies from DAW Books. His story, "In the Eyes of the Empress's Cat," was voted a Notable Story of 2006 in the Million Writers Award.
Click here to visit the Bradley P. Beaulieu's official website.
Here's a description of The Winds of Khalakovo:
Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo's eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo's future.
When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo...
And here's the review:
A REVIEW OF BRADLEY P. BEAULIEU'S THE WINDS OF KHALAKOVO
I became interested in Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Winds of Khalakovo after I read Courtney Schafer's The Whitefire Crossing, because it also seemed to be a fascinating fantasy book. I don't regret reading it, because it's without a doubt one of the best fantasy debuts of 2011 (I can hardly wait to read the second installment of this series). It's truly amazing how many excellent fantasy books Night Shade Books has published this year.
Bradley P. Beaulieu's fantasy world reminds me a bit of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea, because it's an archipelago of islands, but that's where the similarities end. Anuskaya is an original and interesting fantasy world, which is full of small and intriguing details from arranged marriages to summoning spirits. Reading about Anuskaya felt fresh, because archipelagoes are used seldom in epic fantasy literature.
The worldbuilding is a bit minimalistic, but it's handled nicely, because the author reveals things bit by bit and describes the sceneries and events elegantly. Certain things are revealed only partially, so it's possible that the author may continue to reveal new things in the next book.
Bradley P. Beaulieu uses plenty of Russian and Slavic names and terms in this book. Using Russian names and terms isn't an original idea, because for example C. J. Cherryh has written a Russian trilogy for adults (adult fairy tales), but in this case they are used in a completely fictional fantasy world, which is rare. The author uses words like "nischka", "nyet" and "cherkesska". These Russian influences are interesting and they add an exotic and irreristible flavour to the book.
Here's information about the characters:
The main character, Prince Nikandr, is an interesting and sympathetic character. He suffers from a wasting sickness, but the sickness hasn't spread yet, so he can hide the symptoms from those around him. His sister, Victania, also suffers from the same sickness, but her sickness has become worse. Nikandr tries to do everything to help her, but he's afraid of what will eventually happen to her.
Other important characters include Nikandr's lover (a whore), Rehada, and Nikandr's bride, Atiana. Nikandr is supposed to get married to Atiana, but he's reluctant to do so, because he thinks it's an unwelcome obligation. Nikandr has known Atiana for a long time and her brother, Borund, is his old friend. He feels nothing towards Atiana, because he'd rather spend time with Rehada. Rehada has her own feelings and motives and so does Atiana.
Nikandr, Rehada and Atiana are three-dimensional and complicated characters, which develop nicely over the course of the book. The author writes fluently and intriguingly about these characters and their motivations. These strong characters bring depth to the story.
There are also several other characters (Nasim, Ashan, Borund etc), which are interesting, but they aren't as fully developed characters as the main characters. This isn't a bad thing, because Nikandr, Rehada and Atiana are the heart and soul of this book. The author explores themes of loyalty, friendship, jealousy, loneliness and love with his characters.
That's all I'm going to write the characters and events involving the characters, because I don't want to reveal too many things.
Here's more information about the world of Anuskaya:
There are three kinds of people in this book: the Landed, the Aramahn and the Maharraht. The landed people are people who have come to live in the archipelago. The Aramahn are the native people of the archipelago. The Maharraht are part of Aramahn, but they're a separate group and they have their own savage plans (the Maharrath have attacked the Landed).
The world is full of interesting magic. For example, the Aramahn are capable of controlling the four elements (earth, fire, water and air). It was interesting to read about their abilities to control the different elements. It was also interesting to read how Nikandr's mother used magic. I also enjoyed reading about the soulstones, which held the essence of the person's life.
Airships are important vehicles, because they allow people to travel from island to island. Magic is involved in moving the ships with the wind currents – the ships are moved with the help of the spirits of the air by havaqirams, who are wind masters.
There's a wasting sickness in the world, which causes people to wither away slowly. There's also blight, which affects crops and makes life hard for everybody. The sources of the wasting sickness and blight are unknown, but Nikandr believes that things can be cured with time and research.
The political intrigue works well and and the plot moves sophisticatedly forward. I think it's great that Bradley P. Beaulieu doesn't rush into action, but takes time to develop things and characters. This kind of gradual plot development allows the reader to fully emerge himself/herself into the book.
I think it's great that the maps of the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya and Khalakovo are good. It's also nice that there's a thorough list of characters at the beginning of the book.
It would've been nice if Bradley P. Beaulieu would've explained the magic system more properly and written more about the relationships between the characters, but the lack of these things didn't bother me much. I enjoyed reading this book, because the story was fascinating and the author had tried to create something new.
The Winds of Khalakovo is one of those books, which are a pleasure to read. Bradley P. Beaulieu's writing style is accessible and he seems to have a talent for combining different elements in an addictive way (and he avoids clichés and predictability).
The Winds of Khalakovo is an exciting, exotic and captivating debut fantasy book, which combines several different elements in an entertaining way. The author has created a richly-detailed fantasy world which will fascinate fantasy readers and keep them glued to the book. Just like Courtney Schafer's The Whitefire Crossing, The Winds of Khalakovo is a fine and well written book and it can be recommended to fantasy readers. I'm sure that fantasy readers will like this book, because it features an exotic fantasy world and engaging characters.