I was looking for a superficial, easy summer read when I was on the beach, and I found it in Wind Warrior, Cynthia Robert’s debut novel. Set during the early nineteenth century, in the frontier settlements of upstate New York, the novel follows Leslie Michaels, a young widow living with her widower father. The two live not far from the Seneca nation, with whom their village has come to peaceful terms. Leslie has prophetic dreams, an ability that has been passed down to her through her mother’s people, which she keeps secret for fear of what those around her might think. (Her ability = my inclusion of Wind Warrior in a blog that deals in speculative fiction.)
The story opens with one of Leslie’s prophetic dreams, in which she is dreaming of a handsome Native American warrior, one she does not know, but has dreamed of repeatedly. She has a gut feeling that this warrior she’s been dreaming of is a good man, an honorable man… and then she is dropped back into her every day life, in which she lives with her father in a small cabin on the frontier. Rapidly, the life she and her father have carved out for themselves is shattered, and Leslie finds herself on the run from a vicious, vindictive man who blames her father for his hardship and wants to claim Leslie for his own.
In many ways, I liked Leslie. She wasn’t a simpering damsel in distress, always waiting for a man to rescue her. Big plus, there. When she has reached her limit and is simply unable to help her self any farther, she knows to accept the help that offered to her. She’s pretty even-keeled. These are all good things. She borders on being sanctimonious, though, always being righteous, and it felt to me that the author just barely kept her heroine from being unbearably perfect.
Winnokin, the Seneca war chief she meets and becomes involved with, skips right over that line of being too perfect. He’s got that chiseled warrior’s body every romance hero should have, power (wielded selflessly, of course) in his nation, and a genuine heart. He’s lovely inside and out, and it’s only his sense of humor that keeps him from being a flat, two-dimensional character. Maybe I’m being judgmental. Maybe I like my romantic heroes flawed. I don’t know–but Winnokin was so damn likable that I felt that he wasn’t quite real.
This likability bleeds over to Robert’s portrayal of the Seneca people. She does a great job of not belittling Native American beliefs or pushing them into the old “savage” stereotype. Leslie goes on at length about their nobility and sense of profound spirituality, actually. I found, though, that in making sure Winnokin’s people aren’t vilified for simply not being white, they are made to be too perfect, too harmonious, too understanding. Rather than being the “other” that needs to be saved and civilized by the white man, something Roberts was clearly trying to avoid, the Seneca have been romanticized to the point of being flat and Disney-like. No civilization is perfect, and the apparent perfection here made me twitch.
Then again, this is a fluffy romance with a hint of the supernatural–prophetic dreams and all–so maybe I’m being too critical. I just worry that excessive romanticizing is just as dehumanizing as vilifying is, albeit for different reasons.
Overall, Wind Warrior was an easy read, nothing challenging. It hit a number of the stereotypes I’m growing accustomed to seeing in romances-manly scents, feminine curves, that sort of thing–which you might be looking for in a romance. There were some production quality problems, though, that detracted from the story. While I don’t expect every novel I read to be perfect, I do expect that the most I’ll see is typos, and in Wind Warrior I found homophone confusion. “Shutter” was used in place of “shudder” more than once, and I saw an instance of “heal” used where I should have seen “heel.” These are more than simple typos, and speak to, I think, lapses in quality control.
In the end, while entertaining, this isn’t a novel I’d recommend to my friends, even the romance-loving ones. I just didn’t find it quite engaging enough.
I received Wind Warrior through Crazy Book Tours.
Visit the author on her Web site.