Book Review: A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree
This was a book I've seen floating around and had heard a lot of good things about, so I wasn't surprised when it became a finalist in this year's ongoing SPFBO competition. A friend loved it and recommended it, so I decided to give it a try.
Historical fiction isn't usually my thing, and this particular time period isn't one I've ever really had an interest in, so it did take me a while to really sink into the story and get invested. You can tell it has been meticulously researched, and if you like an emphasis on the historical with a few sprinklings of fantasy elements mixed in, you'll definitely enjoy this one. The story is set during the Crusades and does a good job of examining the cost of those battles and the impacts on those involved in them.
We follow three main characters throughout the story. Lukas Bessarion is our primary protagonist, thrust out of his own time and sent into the future by a magical ritual gone awry. While trying to find a way back home, he meets a girl named Ayla who is counting down the days until her predetermined death and trying to find a way to make her life mean something before that happens. Then we have Raymond Saint-Gilles, a French leader in the Crusades (and an actual historical figure, apparently). I was immediately more invested in Ayla's character than I was in the other two, and it took me longer to really warm up to them. By the end, though, I was very interested in seeing what would happen to each character. Ayla and Lukas have an especially compelling dynamic, and while some of the developments in their relationship did feel very rushed to me, it was still interesting to watch that play out.
For me, some of the emphasis on the historical elements did make the pacing drag a little, but other readers might not be bothered by that so much. The book is well-written and Rowntree's prose flows smoothly throughout the story. There's a great care and attention to detail here, with little things coming back up or coming full circle later on in the story, so you'll want to pay attention if you do decide to read this. Overall it was a solid and enjoyable read, and a worthy contender for the SPFBO competition. I've already picked up the next book in the series and will be looking forward to seeing how everything plays out.