Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Wind Dancer; Iris Johansen

Originally published by Bantam in 1991, The Wind Dancer is the first book in a trilogy (the other titles are Storm Winds and Reap the Winds) written by author Iris Johansen. Link to her site is in title above. Ms. Johansen has now moved on to write thrillers. This book is set in 16th century Italy & centers around one man's obsession with a legendary family statue called, naturally enough, The Wind Dancer.

This book reminded me strongly of The Shadow of the Lion by Mercedes Lackey, et al. which I read last fall. The Wind Dancer, though, is truly a romance novel in that the relationship takes center stage despite the strong current of menace that runs through the novel. Lionello Andreas, sometime Lord of Mandara and hopeful shipbuilding magnate, must steal back his family's precious statue. To do this, he buys a 16 year old female thief named Sanchia. Sanchia, daughter of a slave, has accepted her fate as a slave, never to be a freewoman. Nevertheless Sanchia strives to protect those under her care- even if it means compromising what morals & ideals a slave can nurture in 16th century Italy.

Lion, confronted by Sanchia's honest assessments of life, loyalty, sex and duty as a slave, is newly uncomfortable with the thought of humans as chattel- expendable in his efforts to restore the statue to Mandara. Sanchia, meanwhile, resolves that Lion isn't half bad & at least he feeds her & clothes her & hasn't beaten her. Events overtake Sanchia and Lion. Events that cause Sanchia to change, much like pruning a rosebush will force renewed vigour and more blossoms. Lion struggles to figure out how to keep her, both literally and figuratively. Torn between familial duty and lust, Lion too must grow and change.

This novel has strong themes: slavery, violence, familial duty, devestating disease, vengeance, germ warfare, politics. The violence isn't stark, but it is there. The degredation of slavery & its fundamental inhumanity are discussed. Lion never accepts Sanchia's fundamental emotional & intellectual need to chose her own path- which trait I didn't appreciate. The May-December aspect didn't bother me as much as the slavery issue. Lion's age is not given, but it's probably safe to assume he's at least in his mid to late twenties or early thirties.

I bought these (Wind Dancer & Storm Winds) a while ago as part of a 'two-fer' sale. If the second is as gripping as the first, I'll have to hunt up the third as well. I do reccommend this one wholeheartedly, with the caveat that it isn't light or for the faint of heart. If you like your romances meaty, though, this is a good one.


CindyS said...

I read Johansen years ago when I probably couldn't understand all the nuances in the book. I stopped reading her because her books were plagued (literally) with drama after drama - I think I may have come across one where the hero was married and even had children - I know I finished the book but I was put off by it at the time. Being in my twenties I wasn't all that accepting of H/H who were still married in historicals.

I have been thinking that I would like to re-read her books but I can barely get myself to pick up something new right now. Meh.

Glad you liked it and even though I never remember the titles of books I'm sure you'll find the next book just as enthralling (there was a scene in one of the books that showed that the villian was not some disney version - I was squicked out big time. Don't want to say too much in case it wasn't in this book.


Bookwormom said...

CindyS- There were quite a few themes going on that I wouldn't usually go for, especially in a romance. In this case, though, I thought it worked out. Still- a girl's gotta be in the right mood.

Holly said...

I'm in the process now of reading her Eve Duncan series. They're contemp, romantic suspense novels and I really enjoy them.

I have read a few of her older historicals though, and I remember really enjoying them. Lion's Bride comes to mind off hand. There was a lot of drama, but the story was so well written I wasn't put off by it.

I'll add this trilogy to my Wish List for the next time I'm in the mood for a heavier read. I'm focusing on light and fluffy at the moment, though.

Tara Marie said...

I read this series when it was new, and LOVED it, it sat on my keeper shelves for years and a couple of years ago I got rid of it because I hadn't reread them in years. Now I'm regretting that. I'll have to try the UBS.