Wynde is the debut novel by lifelong fangirl Tricia Barr, and the first in her Fireheart Series. Due to the main character’s status as a recent University grad, I classify Wynde as New Adult. While the book would be great for teen audiences too, all of the characters are over the age of about 22.
This book is quite possible the longest book I’ve ever read at 767 pages.
Wynde is a scifi epic set in universe of Barr’s own imagining. Wynde is the story of Vespa Wynde a a young woman determined to help save her friends, family, and her people after an alien attack. After an attack on a a inhabited moon, Vespa does everything she can to save her friends and family, and eventually those trapped at the moon’s island port. Equally revered and reviled by her people for her actions, and feeling betrayed by her parents due to her perceived lack of support by them, she loses her self confidence. Through a series of events that include Vespa trying to come to terms with she did, and a few mishaps that almost set her back, she is offered a position being one of the first spaceblade pilots. She takes it, and along the way finds her true self, and finally earns what she always wanted: her father’s respect and trust.
The setting for Wynde is a universe with advanced technology, including space fairing vessels, but it is partially grounded in what we know. The planet Prime is made of several countries, all with distinct existing cultures that are mentioned throughout, just like our own planet, yet unlike us they are unified under one government. There is also mention of an ipod/tablet like device called a compupod, and other things which keeps the story from being too unrecognizable as a human society. This is a plus in my opinion since it keeps things from getting too bogged down by being too advanced, and from being too close to other scifi epics.
They story has great dialogue, with some great exchanges between some of the characters. The descriptions made it easy to visualize what was going on right from the get go. Plus, it was full of enough action to please everyone I think. There are many POV characters that pop up through out, some for only a couple of chapters/scenes, and others more frequently with Vespa being chief among them. I think this is a great idea as you don’t have to remain with the main character the whole time and can show what’s happening somewhere else.
The characters are well rounded, and I found myself really liking some of them. Vespa is a young woman with spirit, who in the face of imminent danger, doesn’t give in to fear. Instead she stands up and fights. She repeatedly cares more about saving those she loves than the danger to her own life. She’s a strong young woman fangirls of all ages can stand behind and cheer for. Gemini Reed, Vespa’s best friend, is another great character. I petite blonde (Yeah! We need more of those) who proves that big things come in small packages. She enlists in an elite military special forces group, Gemini takes part in the battle at the end of the novel, proving herself to be a formidable ally and opponent. She is a well rounded character, and like Vespa, a strong female character for fangirls to love. The male characters where equally great. Zephyr, Vespa’s childhood friend who cares for her a lot more than she realizes, I found myself rooting for him and hoping Vespa would give him a chance. Even Daemyn, Vespa’s overprotective father who is afraid of losing his daughter and expects a bit too much from his children, reminded me a bit of my own dad with his over protectiveness and I could totally relate to Vespa’s frustration with him (yet another plus when you can relate to a character or two). The most unique character was the AI Wisper, who has her won personality and role to play in the story.
Of course, there were little nods to Star Wars, and other fandoms throughout. I counted at least five Star Wars nods, two Star Trek nods, a Firefly reference, and what I think was a Princess Bride one. While some might not like this, I love seeing nods to what inspired the author without it over the top, which these weren’t.
However, as much as I enjoyed the story, it does need a couple of things.
Number one, a glossary of terms. There were a lot of new words (compupod, comdee), names of gods (Fayti, Tarah, Aladare, Evos), curse words, and mentions of counties and events in history. I found myself wishing there was a detailed explanation of things, especially of who the gods were and what being an Aladarian – or Faytin, Terran, or Auquarian – meant. Other explanations, like what a Weapon of Air was came late in the game, and I’m still fuzzy on what exactly a Guardian is and what their powers fully entail. I really think a glossary would help enhance the understanding of the story.
A second thing, and this might be just a choice in how to approach things, but I think revealing who is behind the Orkan attacks early on by using that character as a POV character for a few chapters/scenes takes away from the mystery of weather it’s the Orkan King behind it, or someone usurping him. I’ve always felt you should keep the mystery about such thing as long as possible to add to the suspense and mystery, so like I said, this could just be a stylistic issue I have with it.
While I said above that I approved of the use of multi character third person point of view, I think a few times it took away from what was going on in the central plot and interrupted the flow of the story. A few scenes could be taken out and still maintain the flow of the story and integrity of the plot. Those scenes could instead be included in a companion novella so that readers can still read what was happening to certain characters up until a certain point, for instance when all the characters story’s begin to converge and combine. This would also make the story shorter, but not by much. Again, this could just be an aesthetic choice or preference for not straying too far from the main plot that I have. It’s something I don’t like to done see in general though.
Overall though, I loved it! Wynde is a great debut novel and start to a series. I give it four stars (or should I say lightsabers?). I truly can’t wait to see what happens next in the story and see how Vespa, Gemini, Zephyr, and Terraq come into their own and accept their roles in what’s to come.
Tricia Barr has written for Star Wars Insider magazine, the Star Wars blog, and Suvudu. She runs the blog FANgirl and is on the committee for Her Universe’s Year of the Fangirl, which is how I came to learn about her and interact with her online. She honed her fiction writing skills by writing fanfiction for various fandoms over the years. A lifelong fangirl, she was inspired to write her own scifi adventure novel by all the storytellers she’s come across, and after seeing James Arnold Taylor’s (Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars The Clone Wars) one man show at star Wars Weekends, decided it was time to write it.