The Winds of Khalakovo – Bradley P. Beaulieu

About the book
Amonginhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelagoof seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky.Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie standsat the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflicthas erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and thefanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the pastdecade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which willweigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future. When an elemental spirit attacks anincoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr,heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigybelieved to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy isan autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has beensweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? CanKhalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo.
500 pages(paperback)
Published on: March 8, 2011
Published by: Night Shade Books
This book was by the author.
The Winds of Khalakovo was a book that’s been on my radar for awhile, if for no other reason than the title sounds cool; strange and unique.It’s very evocative, bringing to mind a windswept island full of cliffs andwhistling wind. That image is incredibly fitting, because when I picture theworld that Beaulieu creates, that’s exactly what I picture in my mind; a groupof seven islands with high mountains, cliffs, complex culture and plenty ofvodka.
Beaulieumade a smart move by patterning his world with many Eastern Europeaninfluences. For readers like me, who are sick of the same old world withdifferent characters, The Winds ofKhalakovo will be a wonderful change of pace. Beaulieu steeped his worldand character in these Russian-type influences, from the names to the vodka.For example, the protagonist’s name is Nikandr and he drinks plenty of vodka,as does pretty much everyone else. There are even some Russian words sprinkledthroughout the work, like da and nyet.
The Russianwords were an aspect of the book I was very divided on. On the one hand, it wasnice having words I was vaguely familiar with sprinkled throughout the book. Icould easily figure them out, and while they helped build up the cultural vibeBeaulieu was going for, I didn’t have to spend half the book figuring out whatthey meant, or constantly flip to the back to read definitions. On the otherhand, these words made Beauliu’s world feel a bit used, for lack of a better word. With a world as unique andcaptivating as this one, the use of Russian words didn’t seem as creative asBeaulieu could have been. However, in the end, these are niggling concernswhich may or may not actually matter to some readers.
There arealso many similarities between The Windsof Khalakovo and historical elements. For example, the Dutchies have conqueredthe Archipelago and forced the nomadic Aharmahn under their rule and due tothis the two classes of people are at odds with one another as the landedstruggle to enforce their way of life upon the native inhabitants, who largelyreject it. Most readers will find a similar event in history to compare thisto, and because of that it lends the novel an aspect of familiarity it mighthave otherwise lacked, as well as easily allowing the reader to sympathize withcertain parties.
Much of theimportant action sequences and plotlines have something to do with theairships, whether dealing with them or action happening upon them. The airshipsthemselves are fascinating creations which really add an almost steampunkishvibe to the work as a whole. These ships are important for battles and trade.It doesn’t take many pages before the reader will encounter their first battleon an airship and here they might also see a flaw within the book itself.
The actionsequences, while very well done, can be pretty hard to follow. The problem liesin the fact that much of the action is taking place on a ship above the ground,which takes away landmarks they could use to right themselves with what’shappening and where it’s going on. Due to some vague or confusing descriptions;it can be hard for the reader to tell who is doing what and where they aredoing it. These concerns can really make a huge impact on the reader’s overallunderstanding of what happens. However, that being said, while these issues mayseem like a big deal while reading about them, once you move on they don’t seemquite as important.
Beaulieu haswritten an incredibly complex novel filled with rich cultural detail and plentyof symbolism. In fact, many reviewers have compared The Winds of Khalakovo to Steven Erikson’s Malazan novels in world building, meaning that readers might oftenhave to go back to catch details they might have previously missed. Thiscomplex world building is a huge undertaking on the part of the author andcould possibly serve to delight readers. Regardless of how you crack this egg,having your debut book compared to Steven Erikson’s Malazan books is one hell of an accomplishment. For fans of complexworlds and books that set an impressive foundation for an incredibly promisingepic fantasy series, you need look no further than The Winds of Khalakovo. Despite its flaws, it’s a book to payattention to written by an author worth noting.
3.5/5 stars

3 Responses

  • Paul Weimer

    There are even some Russian words sprinkled throughout the work, like da and nyet.

    And I have seen some criticism from some quarters about that practice. Me, I like that sort of thing, but a stratum of fantasy readers seem to violently abhor it.

    I didn't have a problem with the airship battles, myself. Maybe I've read more Mil-SF than you, maybe. 🙂

  • Ryan

    Great review, it matches many of my thoughts about the book.

    I've got The Winds of Khalakovo waiting in my review queue and should get around to a review of it before the month is out. Like you, I thought the action sequences were pretty tough to follow. The Russian-style setting was kinda unique, but not all that different from what we see all the time in standard fantasy.

  • Sarah (Bookworm Blues)

    You probably do read more military SF than me. I had a hard time figuring out what exactly was going on. I also understand about 0% of all ship lingo, which doesn't help.

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