Here's a strange story. This is really a fantastic battle of good against evil set in the weirdest landscape you could possibly imagine - there are salt mines and mud dwellers and mighty battle fleets of land-wind-craft fighting ancient wars across the desert.
Evil has the walled city of Aramanth in its grip, and yet the people don't realize it. Their society is based on absolute fairness for every inhabitant:
Here were the people of Aramanth, ranked and ordered, going about the business of being tested in a manner that was fair and just. None could complain of favouritism, or of secret grudges against them. All sat the same exam, and all were marked in the same way. The able and the diligent came to the fore, as was right and proper, and the stupid and the idle slipped down the rankings, as was also right and proper. Of course it was unpleasant for those who performed poorly, and had to move house to a poorer district ...
Well, this is called satire, because it is holding something - the school examination system - up to ridicule. Really, we all know that if you are a duffer at maths you are not necessarily a duffer at life, and you are probably excellent at sculpture, or botany or something. But individuality is not valued in Aramanth. We meet the Hath family who love each other dearly but feel unable to join the general race to better themselves. They are slipping down the rankings.
Kestrel Hath throws a wobbly at school. She has forgotten her homework and is ridiculed by her class teacher until she can bear no more. She abandons school during the lunch break, trailed by her twin brother, Bowman, and Mumpo, the class dunce, who has formed an unshakeable affection for her.
Revenge is swift and bitter in Aramanth and Kestrel finds herself sentenced to lifelong special teaching. She makes a desperate bid for freedom through an open door in the Great Tower at the centre of the Imperial Palace and meets face to face with the doddering old Emperor himself. He seems to have been expecting Kestrel and tells her that the city is bound to the evil Morah. He can only be overcome if someone will go to the halls of the Morah and retrieve the voice of the Wind Singer which was taken from Aramanth many generations ago. The Wind Singer is a kind of ancient musical monument left by the old ones to the people of Aramanth in perpetuity. If only the Wind Singer can be made to sing again, everything will be alright.
Kestrel, Bowman, and Mumpo leave the city through the drains with horrifying old-children clutching at them as they go. They enter the dim and oozing world of the Underlake. And they are off on the most extraordinary adventures. A memorable and spectacular book.
Lily, girl, age 16, from Florida, United States, on 12th January 2009. Rating: 6/10
I think it was well written and the author used wonderful description! I enjoyed reading this book...although I believe that Nicholson's other books were slightly more interesting on "plot" matters.
Mistaken, girl, age 16, from Wales, United Kingdom, on 28th August 2008. Rating: 8/10
Its a really good, well written book, but I think you have to be older than 12 or 13 to appreciate it fully. I have read it many times, but the first was when I was around 12. I felt I understood so much more of the complexities and nuances of the plot when reading at 15 or 16, as opposed to concentrating on the main story line aged 12. The 2 sequels 'Slaves of the Mastery' and 'Firesong' are infinitely better than 'The Wind Singer'. How? you may ask, since I have given 'The Wind Singer' a pretty high rating of 8/10. 'Slaves of the Mastery' and 'Firesong' are a million out of ten, so even if you thought this one was only ok, I cannot see how one who can actually read would fail to enjoy parts 2 and 3 in the trilogy. Ultimately I think giving younger kids this book to read for school puts them off reading the book later when they can appreciate it. Perhaps children in Year 9 would enjoy the book, or even for GCSE: these books could be analysed at a fairly high level due to the complexities of the plot, and the incredible characters, notably Sisi in 'Slaves of the Mastery' and 'Firesong'. William Nicholson is a genius story teller, and I hope he continues writing for young adults for a long time.
xanthe*, girl, age 15, from cambridge, United Kingdom, on 30th June 2008. Rating: 10/10
i cannot stop reading this book! i have to keep reading it again because for some reason slaves of the mastery is not presenting itself available to me but i will just have to order it on amazon! there is too much to say about it. you can't pick a favorite character i think they are all either lovable or hateable. i thought a character like mumpo should be more common in books there is always someone following you around like that and you kind of hate them but at the same time you can't hate them.. anyway i think anybody could read this all they have to do is like fantasy because it's got everything else. except really young children might not like the killing, and also some of the other allegorical themes would be missed. besides the bit on exams (which does make a great point) there is also satire on drugs, war, and utopian ideal, and i thought that whoever brought up nazism as relates to the zars made a great point, i hadn't thought of that first time i read it. anyway i talk too much, i didn't even say all i wanted to but its really really great, very well written, you have to read it! and if you didn't like it read it again more thouroughly you'll be surprised.
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This is the first part of a trilogy! Have a look at:
You might like to look at The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell: