Paul Kidd Title Get's Mainstream Review
Colleen Cahill reviews A Whisper of Wings, for the Fast Forward video interviews that air in Northern Va. and Montgomery County. A copy of the transcript has also been submitted for publication to the Washington Science Fiction Association Journal, the Lambda Sci-Fi Newsletter (local Gaylaxian group) and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society's newsletter.)
A Whisper of Wings
by Paul Kidd
Flushing, N.Y. : Vision, c1999.
A friend who attended the recent AnthroCon lent me a title he acquired there called A Whisper of Wings. Never having read any anthropomorphic or "furry" literature, I was curious. I must admit that the cover of this work put me off a bit: a female with furred human body, head and tail of a fox, wings and antenna of a butterfly seemed not the stuff of great stories. Paul Kidd, however, has taken these creatures, called Kashra, and made a wonderful tale of power and war, magic and love.
A Whisper of Wings is not a warm and fuzzy book; it is complex and often dark, with intrigue and murder as important to the story as the magic and wonder. The Kashra are old society, with many long standing traditions and blessed with a thousand years of peace. War is scrupulously avoided and to this end a class system was set up. Unfortunately, the system has become hide-bound and is breaking down. The upper classes are defined by their colorful wings, as opposed to the brown wings of the common folk, and they care more for their rights and privileges than for the people they rule.
Famine is a reality as the Katakanii, one clan of the Kashra, have over-hunted their forests without thought. Shadarii, a mute and talented dancer with healing powers, is one of the few Kashra that still communes with the woods. She strongly senses the Ka or spirits around her and she feels more at home in the forest than among her people, who treat her with pity or contempt. Shadarii is loving person but not strong in will and she often shies from conflict, even if it is at her expense. She is the younger daughter of the clan Lord and her older sister, Zhukora, is a different from her as night and day. Zhukora is strong in body and will; she wants the best for her people and is not class conscience. She can, however, be cruel and intolerant of those who do not share her views.
The politics of the Katakanii clan are rigid. The clan Lord is old and has no sons to replace him. He neglects his two daughters, preferring to dream of earlier days. Zhukora sees the hunger of the common folk and rebels against the current system. She judges people on their merit and her companions are the strongest and brightest among the tribe: her closest friend and lover is a commoner. Her leadership is charismatic and her followers are happy to fight or die for her. Initially, she wants only what is good for the clan; more food, protection from enemies and respect for all. But while Zhukora sees the problems of the tribe, she feels only her solutions are viable and does not look at their long term effect. For example, she tries to harvest the entire school of fish heading up stream to mate not considering that next year there maybe no fish to return. She is sees Shadarii as a cripple and scorns her for being weak and useless. The older sister has no moral trouble in caging her younger sibling to hand over to the religious leadership. This group recognized Shadarii's great rapport with the Ka and plan to force her into the priesthood, willing or not.
Shadarii initially wants nothing more than to dance the sacred dances of the tribe, but is eventually denied this due to jealousy of another dancer. Meanwhile she finds love with Kotura, a Kashra from another clan and a commoner. Their love is forbidden by tradition, as not only are they from different classes, but the clans avoid contact with each other.
Only after Kotura is left for dead and Shadarii escapes from her sister does she learn she has powers she did not know of, and abilities undreamed. The two sisters move in different paths, gaining powers and experiences that color their choices and through them, effect the lives of all the clans of Kashra. This is not a predictable tale and there is no happy ending. The villains make understandable choices and are not evil incarnate and the heros have flaws that make them interesting and approachable. For those readers of furry literature, this is one to check out; for those who are curious, this is a good place to start.