Luck of the Wheels by Megan Lindholm

Gypsy teamster Ki agrees to ferry a most disagreeable boy to another town, and discovers a world of trouble when she and her companions find themselves in the middle of an uprising.

Luck of the Wheels, the fourth and final installment in the Ki and Vandien Quartet, is the best Lindholm I’ve read so far. Here, she pushes her protagonists as far as they can be pushed, taking the kinds of story risks that make her books so accomplished. She’s not afraid to enact events upon her characters that change them fundamentally, and she recognizes that our pain and suffering changes us in fundamental ways. Healing doesn’t mean erasure.

Goat, the off-putting, annoying, offensive boy Ki has contracted to chauffeur is one of Lindholm’s most vibrant characters. He’s like a bad little boy trapped in a man’s body, and he makes some dreadful, irreversible mistakes. Even so, Lindholm managed to make me care about him, to the point where I didn’t want to see him abandoned on the road. Of course, part of my wanting him to catch up to the wagon, so to speak, was because I was so invested in the story that I didn’t need to like all the characters in order to want to follow them. This, more than anything, is what Lindholm and her alter ego Robin Hobb do so magnificently–keep the wheels of story inexorably turning without ever submitting to cheap tricks or easy contrivances.

I’m really bummed that these books are out of print, because I want to recommend them to everybody. They’re just so wonderful, full of life and humanity and truth–not to mention they’re cracking good adventures. Has anyone ever had any luck with a “bring this book back in print” campaign? I’d love to make that happen for the Ki and Vandien Quartet, as well as the rest of Lindholm’s books. Leave a comment if you’re interested.

In the meantime, Amazon’s improving recommendations tell me that I’ll like Tad Williams and Kate Elliott, so I’m giving them a try. If you’ve read either the Crown of Stars series or Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, I’d love to know what you think.

But enough fantasy for now. I’m heading back into the land of literature with books 2 and 3 of Kristin Lavransdatter. Plus, a Dean Koontz book! I’m such an omnivore.

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