RogerBW's Blog

Wind Raker, Melissa Scott and Jo Graham 07 May 2021

2015 historical fantasy, fourth in the Order of the Air series. It's 1935, and the Gilchrist Aviation team are in Hawaii testing a new flying-boat – except for Jerry the archaeologist, who's on a dig looking for evidence of Chinese explorers reaching the islands.

This is an oddly thready book. All its major plot elements do eventually overlap with each other: a recurring villain is sponsoring the dig in order to try to validate Nazi racial theories about Aryans, and is responsible for the curse on a new friendly character, and is trying a big magical working to gather power and rule the world. But all these things spend a long time being separate elements, and even combined they're relatively easily and anticlimactically resolved once our heroes buckle down to them and stop talking about how we must do something, yes, we must, really, something is a thing that we should definitely do.

(Well, that's very true to the ritual magicians I've met. And like most ritualists they're happy to steal and incorporate elements from the world's cultures, but they never stop to think that there might be mechanisms other than ritual to get magic done.)

And a completely unrelated side plot is that the handyman at their home base in Colorado Springs has vanished, abandoning three children, who get adopted into the Gilchrist Aviation family and brought along. And there's a load of personal drama to go along with that which simply didn't engage me.

And we have the presence of the training cruiser Emden under some fellow named Dönitz, who's clearly being set up as "good guy who happens to be on the wrong side", which I find a little unsubtle for this rather complicated man. (Emden did indeed call at Hawaii on training cruises, though I believe not in the summer of 1935 nor under Dönitz.) And various people have Significant Feelings about the future of Pearl Harbor.

There are some lovely bits here, particularly in the air, but it feels at times as though our protagonists' personal stories were basically complete at the end of the trilogy, and the authors are having to invent additional material just to keep the series going; the time skip of two and a half years since the previous book reinforces this.

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Previous in series: Silver Bullet | Series: Order of the Air | Next in series: Oath Bound

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