Here’s a portrait of Sky, one of the main characters in BB Wynter’s intriguing fantasy, ‘The Lament of Sky’. I’m envious, as it was painted by the author. I’ve always longed to paint my characters, but I lack the talent.
I hardly read any fantasy; I know I should, especially the dystopian stuff, as I’ve heard there is some brilliant work out there with strong female leads if you look about. I came on the novel almost by accident, and I was fascinated, particularly as the writer is so young, with a whole lifetime ahead of her to extend her already remarkable talent further.
I found this dystopian fantasy enthralling, and I’m not exactly easy to enthrall.
The setting is an alternate reality which depicts an environment of forests surrounding industrialized cities with an approximately late nineteenth century stage of technological development. Here a regime of insane viciousness indulges in tyranny over a brainwashed population; criticizing the great Fhyniix is punishable by death – and a horrible one at that: –
‘The profuse smog cast a sickness upon the cornflower buildings and the sky had forfeited its colour to a repugnant, dreary grey…’
A public announcement blares out: – “All must drop every task and pray in servitude to the Vildarii. Give thanks for the freedom bestowed on you…A very, very naughty citizen, the writer Frederick Widaston, was found with a piece of paper on his person, which speaks words against the third Valdarii Marko. Why insult our holy lord gods? It is malicious bullying and persecution against our beliefs – beliefs that preach only peace and love… The execution will be in two hours; that’s two hours, folks! Don’t miss it; refreshments will be available, free of charge. Now isn’t that nice!”
Of the ruling Vildarii, Marko is elusive, but hideously powerful. We meet the sadistic, golden eyed Fhyniix, whose posters are plastered throughout the cities. William, the sole surviving (and now deranged) Duwaiu, explains to Lilyth, the last remaining member of the tribe of the Amazonian Rhai Angoff, whom he has rescued from an amnesic existence trapped on a hell plain, how it is Fhyniix’s goal to draw enough evil energy from tyranny and suffering to draw the world and all the spiritual realms into an eternal hell plain.
The unknown first Vildarii? Ah, he’s the most intriguing of them all, and we certainly meet him, but I can’t describe him, because that would be to write a spoiler. I’ll just say that he is a totally unexpected and wonderful creation too.
This story is full of tension and fearsome desolation, both emotional and physical, of fearsome battles with psychic entities, of visions of a world become deranged, of grotesquely funny incidents and larger than life characters. The prose style is, I think, the most original I’ve come across; like Dylan Thomas, the writer often flouts the conventional grammatical rules and makes it a strength and not a weakness.
Lilyth, the female lead (she isn’t quite human) is a wonderful creation, strong and independent, brave and honourable, witty and a huge relief after too many hours spent reading about women who leave the battling to the men. She’s very distinctive looking, possessing both silver hair and eyes, and a very pale face, and has to go disguised, as her wanted poster is everywhere.
William, who runs his subterranean revolutionary ‘Clandestine’ with astounding savagery, is an equally arresting figure, with his massive build, strange tattooed almost maroon skin, jutting cheekbones, beady black eyes and mane of auburn hair, plaited with ornaments.
He also possesses some truly disgusting rugs: –
‘A litter of distasteful patterns between vibrant green pillows that were scattered alongside covers exploding with heavy embroidery. Vomit could only improve his choice of interior decoration.’
That was one of the things I enjoyed most about this book; the wonderful humour; Lilyth, on seeing some dilapidated tree houses belonging to a group of people turned cannibal in the forest, remarks succinctly, ‘What a load of crap’, and that’s typical of the wonderfully debunking style that runs throughout. Typically, too, she nicknames the magic being whom she meets in the forest a ‘cabbage fairy’ a title he doesn’t much appreciate.
I haven’t yet mentioned the jester Vergo, with his wildly uncontrolled libido and pervasive streak of cowardice, but remarkable loyalty. Lilyth first meets him getting drunk in a tavern, which is his favourite activity besides the inevitable one; he sometimes sleeps in bins; he’s always getting into trouble, and he’s madly jealous of the ‘cabbage fairy’.
This fantasy is anything but happy-ever-after stuff. It’s a strongly written, uncompromising tale of a battle between good and evil, but with both sides getting dirty hands in the process. Beneath the fantastical images, it makes serious points about political and religious indoctrination, freedom and tyranny.
Highly recommended by sourpuss.
Here’s the links