Title: Nihal of the Land of the Wind*
Author: Licia Troisi
Publication date: 2004 in Italian, 2014 in English
Genre: YA/ Fantasy
This book is originally an Italian novel that has been translated to German and is being released next week in English.
Nihal is a young girl who wants to be a warrior. She’s raised by her father, an armorer who has always let her run wild. She’s a gifted swordsman and has some magic ability. When her town is raided by the Tyrant’s forces, Nihal leaves in defense of the Land of the Wind.
My problems with this book are many, so be warned.
First and foremost, Nihal is a highly capable fighter with great technique and anticipates her opponents well. She’s somehow managed to gain this ability not through rigorous training regiments and practice, but by running amok with village kids and occasionally (but not very frequently) sparring with her father. This was perhaps one of the most bothersome parts of the book. She’s an extraordinary fighter who bests seasoned cadets and mercenaries without any real battle training. This was ridiculously hard to buy.
Her relationship with magic is almost worse. Nihal leaves for her aunt’s home (An aunt she knows nothing about even though she’s less than a day’s walk away and her aunt and father speak frequently). There, Nihal must undergo a test before she can be trained in magic. She’s to go out into the woods alone and commune with nature. Nihal is terrified of the woods and, so, the challenge is supposed to be difficult. But at no point is Nihal ever alone. Her fellow student spends time comforting her and then wood sprites come and hang out. The wood sprites aren’t actually her communing with nature. They’re there to reassure Nihal that nothing is going to harm her in the woods. They then show her how to commune with nature. Yet another ability that Nihal does not need to work towards or fight for.
The only saving grace there is that Nihal is not a great magician. She only bothers to learn healing spells and some attack spells for battle.
Nihal’s relationship with her father was another point of contention. Nihal is thirteen and lives in a world where women are expected to stay home and care for domestic tasks. I can understand a father indulging the dreams of a young daughter and his only child. However, Nihal’s father doesn’t have any problem with her traipsing about in the woods with an older boy. He also doesn’t worry about her running around alone when there are enemy troops about who are known for terrorizing civilians and taking their women.
In a world where women are largely relegated to the home, it surprised me that Nihal’s father would have no concern for his daughter’s well-being or reputation. Let’s face the cold hard facts: Nihal would not be marriagable material and it’s mostly because he’s being permissive. On top of that, he’s risking her safety. He only expresses concern when he decides that he’s feeling lonely. This made absolutely no sense to me.
On the plus side, when Nihal does become a cadet in training to be a knight (after a series of battles to prove herself in which exhaustion and fatigue are not a factor for Nihal), she does get her pride smacked around by her individual trainer. He’s not going to settle for purposeless fighters and has some fairly decent lessons for Nihal to learn. Not that she really gives him the light of day.
* This book was recieved as an eARC via Netgalley.com