I read this thanks to a recommendation from Helen Merrick, who I seem to recall being a massive Czerneda fan. I understand that this is a prequel series, written after the world in question becomes part of a wider galactic network. Not having read the later books, I can’t say how an already-fan would respond; but I imagine there are some awesome moments of filling-in-gaps. Because it is indeed a wonderful novel, and I do fully intend to go and find the rest of the trilogy, and probably the later series as well.
Told mostly from the adolescent (unChosen, in the parlance of her people) Aryl’s point of view, this is a story of a world that – as far as Aryl is concerned – is entirely static, as it should be. One of the characters comments on Aryl and her people living in an eternal ‘now’ – and although that’s not entirely fair, because their lives do revolve around the season of harvest, it does make sense because their knowledge of history and their expectations for the future are exceptionally limited. But this is not, overall, a bad thing: Aryl’s family and friends live full, rich and generally rewarding lives. Without interference – and of course you know there’s going to be interference – the Yena live.
Aryl lives on Cersi, a world that is home to three different sentient species. Aryl is of the Om’ray, human-types who live in Clans in disparate parts of the world and who rarely interact with each other except when one of the boys leaves on Passage, drawn by a woman who has become sexually mature (there’s some mental communication stuff which makes this basically make sense). The Oud and the Tikitik are not humaniform, and they are more technologically advanced than the Om’ray – they swap the Om’ray for some things in exchange for technology. The Agreement is meant to guarantee stability (if not stagnation) between the three. But then things change – strangers come. And strangers are not accommodated within the Agreement, which sets off all sorts of problems between the species, and within them as well.
There’s a lot of things going on within this book. Biological sexuality is not something that develops in Om’ray but seems to basically be on or off, which is intriguing and means that sexual tension isn’t really an issue (well, it is at one point, but it doesn’t overwhelm the whole story); issues of difference, and allowances for degrees of difference, are central to the Om’ray story and whether Aryl can be truly part of her Clan. In sweeping terms this is both a coming-of-age story, for Aryl, and also a first-contact story – and that part I think is done very well done, because it’s neither entirely positive nor entirely negative. Part of the story is told from the perspective of a boy from a different Clan, and this allows Czerneda to show the different perspectives of the Om’ray themselves, within their general similarities.
I think this counts as science fiction, because the strangers are aliens and there are issues of technology etc. It includes elements of fantasy, too, which I think work nicely within the story as a whole.
Reap the Wild Wind is well-paced, with an intriguing world and winsome POV characters. Very enjoyable.
You can get Reap the Wild Wind from Fishpond.