Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Wind Dancer by Iris Johanson

Title: The Wind Dancer
Author: Iris Johansen
ISBN: 0553288555
Publisher: Bantam Books/1991
Pages: 385

The Wind Dancer is a historical romance set in Florence, Italy from March 1505. Johansen is another romance writer I do not mind reading.
Sanchia is a slave who is only sixteen year old. As she has a heart of gold, he has taken upon herself to look after three other children like her. To do that, she has to resort to thieving. Lionello Andreas, a soldier and a shipbuilder, has this burning obsession to get back The Wind Dancer a small statue of a winged horse which has belonged to his family from many generations. This statue has been stolen from him by Damari. To get it back, he needs a thief.Lionello buys Sanchia from her present master. However, Sanchia drives a hard bargain in order to settle those other three children with her.

This book shouldn't be classed as a romance novel, because it's much better than what usually passes for that genre: it's a real novel, with complex characters, genuine development and transformation, none of the shameless, embarrassing features that bring the level down.

The hero is not perfect, and is not a knight in shining armor; no one is entirely good or entirely evil, just complex people in a primitive time, trying to live and be happy. This makes the characters so much more intricate, convincing, and fascinating. The best feature: the human relationships. The author shows how historical and personal events often/always spring from the simple human motives: jealousy, spite, lust, love, mastery, competition, desire to win the fair maiden. These are the forces that shape history.

Sanchia's attitude towards her enslavement definitely does change. Sanchia also becomes a very strong woman. Every single one of the characters were as every bit as interesting as the hero and heroine, Lion and Sanchia. However, Lorenzo is by far the best character. Perhaps it's his witty words that bring him out the most.

Lion and Sanchia are magic together, sexually, emotionally, verbally, everything! The author has dreamt up a world fraught with danger and treachery but also one full of out-of-this-world larger-than-life passion and love and made this reader want to abandon everything to jump into that world.

One is drawn into this world of pain, suffering, revenge, and death, only to come out on top with love, hope and a strength that can overcome anything. Throught the book, its as if the lives of each character are being tossed about, broken and shaken up, yet their lives are just changing.

I enjoyed the story every much and marveled at the plot twists. There was good character development too. As the story progressed, one finds out more about the inner feelings of the characters through the events that happened. All characters are very well developed, Sanchia, Lion, Lorenzo, Caterina, even Marco and Bianca. The unfolding events grip you and send you feeling the anguish and horror experienced by the characters. Unlike a war, the casualties may be faceless victims, but the author hasd built the characters so well that one empathises with their grief, mourns their loss and admires their courage.

I like Johansen because her characters are not static, they evolve throughout the story. She's not too squeamish about revenge either.