Harpy’s Flight by Megan Lindholm

After her husband and children are brutally murdered by a god-like Harpy, Ki undertakes an act of vengeance that severs her ties with her husband’s people, and sends her on a dangerous journey up an icy mountain overseen by a malevolent force.

Megan Lindholm is Robin Hobb, whom I love. Harpy’s Flight is the first in a 4-book series featuring teamster Ki and her unlikely partner Vandien, and while the storytelling isn’t as accomplished as in her later works, Harpy’s Flight is a marvelous read.

Harpy’s Flight is nearly excellent, thanks to Lindholm/Hobb’s perfect prose, flawless structure, and imaginative plotting. What it lacks is the overarching vision that she does so well in her Six Duchies trilogies–the epic sweep that leaves you unable to stop reading for thousands of pages. For example, in Harpy’s Flight she introduces The Sisters, an obsidian-black outcropping of rock that resembles two women in an embrace. The Sisters exert an ineffable hold over a mountain pass, and seem to alive in some sense. If you’ve read the Six Duchies books, they reminded me of wizardwood, or dragonstone. Yet she doesn’t develop the mythology at all, and having started the second book, The Windsingers, I don’t think she intends to. This isn’t a problem–it’s just the work of a younger writer who hasn’t yet grown into her potential.

Back to what I love about Hobb. Her characters are deeply human, and she doesn’t shy away from giving them flaws as well as graces. Ki is cut from the same cloth as Fitz, isolating herself out of grief and anger. Her resistance is frustrating, and so, so familiar. When she finally gives in and lets go, it’s a tremendous relief, and well-earned. Vandien isn’t quite as fleshed out, but I have hopes to learn more about him in book 2. Lindholm drops some juicy details about him in the closing pages of the book, surprising and tantalizing.

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