The problem with many fantasy books today is that they all belong to a series. Stand-alone titles are not popular. I can't blame an author for having a lot to say about a world they've created and are passionate about or for looking for a way to cash-in on a clever idea, but it does get a little tiring. Reading a full series worth of books requires much devotion and patience. I've read books before that I've enjoyed (FABLEHAVEN by Brandon Mull, 100 CUPBOARDS by N.D. Wilson) but just couldn't find myself wanting to read the full series.
This is what made WINDBLOWNE so appealing to me. Here we have the promise of a soaring (excuse the pun) adventure, without the somewhat burden of future installments. A fully-realized fantasy world that can be devoured in one sitting!
Oliver loves kites. In the tree-hugging community of Windblowne, this is a good thing. Each year a midsummer kite flying festival is held and Oliver dreams of winning it. The only problem is he can't get a kite to stay in the air for more than a brief moment. When he discovers that his Great-uncle Gilbert is a former festival champion, he seeks him out for advice and help. What he uncovers instead is a Windblowne conspiracy, involving alternate universes, a timid red flying kite, bladed fighting kites, and an evil Lord Uncle trying to destroy everything Oliver loves.
WINDBLOWNE left me wanting more, and not necessarily in a good way. I know I opened with the problem of fantasy series books, but here's a case where I feel like more explanation was needed. The initial mystery is great! In fact, when Oliver was swept away to the alternate universe the first time, I liked where I thought the book was going. Were the two moons of Oliver's Windblowne going to come into play somehow? Two moons, two universes? No. Instead, we discover (SPOILERS - Gasp!) that there are many alternate universes, all being affected by evil Lord Gilbert's antics! I thought the alternate universes would've benefited from further explanation but then probably would've caused the plot to drag along worse than it already was!
I like the eco-friendly message (think Avatar meets Fringe, in a very naturalistic way) and I like how Oliver learns to adjust his hopes and dreams along the way, discovering his true potential. In the end, I feel like the concept was good, just not realized as effectively as it could have been.
Final Grade: B-