Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody

The first book I ever read by Isobelle Carmody was Obernewtyn when it was published in 1987 and my memory is that the experience left me breathless. I have just lifted my head after reading The Red Wind and, while the intended audience is much younger, this book has also transported me to distant lands, climates and creatures. Bily and Zluty are tough little survivors who have carved out a simple life for themselves using materials found in their environment in creative and ingenious ways. Knowing that winters can be long and harsh they have filled their cellar with pots of preserves, jams and chutneys along with urns of honey, bales of sweet grass, sacks of grain, rice and flour and mounds of cones which they use for fires. The close environment does not supply everything they need so while one brother – Bily is the homemaker, Zluty – who is more adventurous – travels to far off places on trips lasting from one day to ten, collecting mushrooms, tree sap, honey and sweet grass. He also looks for plants that Bily might use as dyes. As our story opens Zluty is preparing to go on the longest journey he makes each year to the Northern forest. The whole trip will take ten days and while Zluty enjoys sleeping under the stars and travelling across the wide plain there is still a level of anxiety about the journey. On the morning of his departure the two brothers wake to find a mysterious red mist approaching from the West. Over the next ten days the story alternates between Zluty and his trip to the Northern Forest and the survival of Bily, left at home, as the red dust arrives followed by a storm where rocks and boulders fall from the sky and finally days of torrential rain. This book has all the ingredients I enjoy – food, interesting characters, tension, marvelous descriptions of place, a little humor and kindness. Exactly what is going on in this strange environment that appears to be littered with metal and just what kind of creatures Bily and Zluty and the ‘monster’ are is yet to be revealed. At the end of this first book there is also the tantalizing prospect of a metal egg similar to the one Bily and Zluty hatched from – I wonder what is inside? This is the first book in a trilogy and along with one of my younger students who alerted me to this absolutely wonderful fantasy I simply can’t wait for the next installment. Also congratulation to Isobelle Carmody on the short listing of this book for the CBCA Awards for 2011 it is sure to be awarded a prize.

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