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Literature / Windhaven

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"Barrion thought the world of you, Maris, but he also thought you were naive. You can't change one note in the middle of a song, he told me. Once you make the first change, others have to follow, until you've redone the whole thing. Everything relates, you see?"

Windhaven is a world of seas and storms and islands.

Because the constant storms make boat travel dangerous, the various islands communicate with each other via the Flyers: individuals who ride the air currents using gliding rigs, salvaged from the starship that crashlanded long ago. The passing of the centuries caused the Flyers to become an aristocratic messenger class, governed by strict tradition. The novel, a collection of three novellas cowritten by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, follow the adventures of Maris of Lesser Amberly, a Flyer who, as a young girl, bravely fought to change an unjust system only to realize, as an older woman, that the consequences of doing so reached further and wider than she ever imagined.

Tropes Present:

  • Abusive Parents: Arak was an abusive father-surrogate to Val. It doesn't seem like Val's actual father would have been much warmer, had he not been hanged.
  • Aerith and Bob: Maris, S'Rella, Coll, Corm... and Evan?
  • Ain't No Rule: Ain't No Rule saying you can't challenge a depressed flyer, and there Ain't No Rule saying a dozen flyers can't challenge you in revenge (though they changed that second one).
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Young Maris had something of a crush on a moody daredevil flyer nicknamed Raven.
  • Appropriated Appellation: The Nouveau-Flyers are called "One-Wings" by themselves and everyone else. Even before that, one of the early academies was named Wood-Wings, after a mocking folk-tale/song about a wannabe who died testing a wooden glider.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Maris thinks she has Val's Freudian Excuse after her meeting with Arak, and promptly hunts him down for a go at this trope. In a nice subverion of this trope, he shoots her down.
    "What did you expect me to say, flyer? Did you think I'd embrace you, bed you, sing a song in praise of your understanding? What?"
    • He goes on, more calmly, to explain that he's perfectly aware that Arak is coarser and more loutish than most flyers, yet Arak only expresses beliefs commonly held.
  • Father, I Don't Want To Fly: And, I suck at it! Father doesn't care. Interestingly, though he comes around to Maris having the wings, it's never shown whether or not he and Coll reconciled.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Maris, crippled and depressed, falls in love with her healer. Evan has had relationships with his patients several times, but this isn't seen as immoral within the story, and Evan never acts abusively.
  • Foil: Nice Traditionalist Dorrel to Jerk Traditionalist Corm, and Nice Reformers S'Rella and Maris to Jerk Reformer Val.
  • Happy Ending Override: The first story ends on an optimistic note, with flying academies being opened for anyone to join. The second story takes place seven years later. The academies have only the wings of the teachers, and the few bequeathed the school. Students necessarily have to take turns with them, while flyer-born children go up every day. Every school but one has shut down.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Corm tells Maris that Russ would be ashamed of her, just before the final competition. His position is so desperate that Maris isn't taken in by it.
  • It's All About Me: Maris eventually takes this view of herself at the first council, and of herself refusing to preside over the second council.
  • Klingon Promotion: The new landsman of Thayos worries that this is how she'll be seen by posterity.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: One of the themes of the story is that the singers, though not rich or able to command troops or fly, have the power to decide what becomes historical truth, as Windhaven has no system of writing. Highlighted in the epilogue where Maris relates Coll's last song to a young singer to spread. It's strongly implied that, thanks to him, Windhaven will forever remember her as romantically flying one last time into the sunset and vanishing, instead of the accurate portrayal of her dying as a sickly old cripple in a bed.
    • This has limits, however. In the short run, Coll's singing has the effect of getting him and a dozen other singers arrested and almost hanged. Val listens to Coll's boasting and bemusedly calls it the most arrogant thing he's ever heard.
  • Misblamed: How Sena sees Val. He never tried to befriend flyers, true, but the flyers never gave him a chance, and that second competition was a sham. And as far as the first competition goes, he was only fifteen and it's not like he made Ari kill herself.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: They changed the rule about multiple challenges after Val lost his wings.
  • Nice Girl: Several, but especially S'Rella. Girl has two defining characteristics: Total Sweetheart, and Cries At The Drop Of A Hat.
  • Shoot the Messenger: One particularly mad landsman, known as the Mad Landsman, murdered a flyer for delivering bad news. The flyers boycotted the island until it shriveled up. Don't fuck with the Union.
  • Start My Own: Val and his followers storm out of the second council and declare their own sanction. Eventually, he admits that this perhaps wasn't the best move.
  • Tactful Translation: A One-Wing flyer is hanged for altering messages. The landsman who hanged her was mentally unwell and later removed from his position, but no-one, not even the insular Flyers, approves of her actions.
  • Tournament Arc: The second story revolves around one.
  • Wandering Minstrel: Coll and Barrion. Though they get none of the glory that Flyer's do, singers brave quite a bit of danger to get from island to island and, in a world without writing, have a certain power all their own.