I was a massive fan of Gabriela Houston’s adult debut, The Second Bell, which was released earlier in 2021, so of course I could not resist the opportunity to review her children’s debut, The Wind Child as well. And damn, this is a great book. When I started it, I was just going to read a couple of chapters as a taster, but I raced through it, blundering my way through the London Tube system, kindle in hand, non-stop reading. Get on the Gabriela Houston train, friends. And if you have kids distracting you from reading, either get this one to share with them, or to distract them while you go off to read The Second Bell, whichever option you prefer.
Many thanks to UCLan Publishing for sending me an eARC via NetGalley, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 03/02/2022
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: No human has ever returned from Navia, the Slavic afterlife. But twelve-year-old Mara is not entirely human. She is the granddaughter of Stribog, the god of winter winds and she’s determined to bring her beloved father back from the dead. Though powerless, Mara and her best friend Torniv, the bear-shifter, set out on an epic journey to defy the gods and rescue her father. On their epic journey they will bargain with forest lords, free goddesses from enchantments, sail the stormy seas in a ship made of gold and dodge the cooking pot of the villainous Baba Latingorka. Little do the intrepid duo know of the terrible forces they have set in motion, for the world is full of darkness and Mara will have to rely on her wits to survive. (from UCLan Publishing)
OPINIONS: This is such an entirely wonderful book. Not only is it an immersive story full of great characters, but I learned a lot about Slavic mythology along the way – and I love learning new things. This is a rather short middle grade fantasy adventure, which makes it perfect for young readers, and especially reluctant readers as well. It is addictive – I got stuck into it so much that I could not stop reading until I was done, which for me, is one of the crucial elements of a great children’s book. I found this to be an uncontested five star read – the only thing I could imagine being improved about it is to add some interior illustrations, which is more of a publishing thing rather than a criticism of the book itself, added value, not something that detracts from it now.
One of the things I loved most about The Wind Child is the emotional impact the story had on me. Mara sets out on this grand adventure to try and achieve the impossible, to try and get her recently deceased father back from the afterlife. The ending of the story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming and is the best possible way the book could have resolved. It had me crying in the best possible way (though that may have been connected to reading a dead parent book around the ten year anniversary of my mum’s passing as well, making me more emotionally susceptible to the topic).
Mara and her friend Torniv are fantastic characters. They are not all-powerful, but they are stubborn and they don’t accept no for an answer, and they are determined to succeed. It was a joy to follow them on part of their story, and I wish that we got to spend more time with them. I loved The Wind Child just as much as Gabriela’s adult debut, The Second Bell, and if you have a child in your life, I highly recommend you get them a copy, and either read it with them, or let them read it while you read Gabriela’s other book. She truly is a writer to look out for, and one that I think will go far.