Fiction Reviews

Brothers of the Wind

(2021) Tad Williams, Hodder & Stoughton, £20, hrdbk, 261pp, ISBN 978-1-473-64668-1


Fantasy. A thousand years ago, among the immortal Sithi, none are more beloved than the two sons of the ruling family: steady Hakatri and the fiery younger brother Ineluki, who one day will become the undead Storm King.

Just in case you have forgotten what a great writer Tad Williams is, along comes Brothers of the Wind, taking its title from the two brothers, Hakatri and Ineluki who earned that nickname as they kicked up a storm racing each other on horseback. Billed as a prequel to the 'Memory, Sorrow and Thorn' trilogy that started with The Dragonbone Chair, Williams delivers a double-whammy as readers of the original trilogy will surely want to dip into this, and it doesn’t really matter if they read the trilogy several decades ago because this is a prequel; and those who have never read the originals can safely dip their toes into these fantastic waters before moving on to more weighty tomes in the series.

The story isn’t as epic as the original trilogy, certainly not in length, for which I breath a sign of relief as there are no snappy, short-chapters, instead the tale is told in four parts, divided into sections and sub-sections, so there are no chapters as such, but such is the ease which Williams draws the reader in, you will find yourself hooked as the tale unfolds through the eyes of Hakatri’s faithful servant Pamon Kes who is one of the Tinukeda’ya, a Changling, seen as inferior in the eyes of many around him, being the first of his kind to reach the status of Hakatri’s right-hand man. Kes is in trouble right at the start of the story as he has been misled about a summons from his master just as a group of humans arrive to seek the assistance of the immortal Sithi, because a great worm has come down from the north and settled in their lands and ranges ever wider to feed on livestock and any humans who should come its way. They say it is Hidohebhi, the Blackworm, but that’s nonsense, states Hakatri’s younger brother, Ineluki, in front of the entire court. The great dragons are long gone, and what would mere humans know about them anyway? If anything, this has to be some minor drake. Not for the first time his comments annoy his parents and his brother, but worse is to come as he does not wait for his parents to make a decision to help or not, but rides out of the castle before sunrise to take on the dragon himself, forcing his brother and his entourage who should have dealing with some pesky giants to come after him. Soon they are joined by the humans who sought assistance and together they enter a narrow gorge where disaster and tragedy strikes all for the sake of Ineluki’s pride and vanity.

Thus, Hakatri and Pamon must make a journey to right a wrong and undo the work of Ineluki which will lead to tragic consequences for all involved. No spoilers here, but suffice to say that Williams has spun a tightly plotted tale, rich in world-building and characterisation as we follow the paths of two brothers: one the chosen child who has everything, a beautiful wife, a child, the regard of his people; while the younger brother is more handsome, yet moody, as he struggles within the shadow cast by his older brother, sometimes the life and soul of the party and sometimes the death of it. But while recounting the story of Hakatri and Ineluki, this is really a story of growth for Pamon as his eyes are opened to the place his master and his brother have in the wider world, and how they are regarded and helped and hindered by their scattered kin. At the same time, Pamon begins to doubt his unwavering duty to serve as he learns more about himself and the origins and history of his own kind, and while the “Brothers of the Wind” are trapped within the confines of their positions and own, contrasting personalities, Pamon has the opportunity to grow, if only he can take it. For those who have never read Williams before then this is the perfect introduction to his work.

Ian Hunter


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