The Wind Rises by Timothee de Fombelle
A feisty young girl with plenty of pluck and a slightly shady young boy with an agenda of his own navigate their way through the murky world of traders in African slaves, piracy and immoral commerce in a world of injustice.
Wind Rises: Book 1 of The Alma Series by Timothée de Fombelle, translated by Holly James, illustrated by François Place
Hardcover | $18.99
This novel of the time when people were being gathered and herded to seaports to be sold into slavery is affecting, instructive and disturbingly fascinating. Looking at both those who are being captured and shipped into servitude and those who are operating and profiting from the trade, we see how the practice poisons both slave and enslaver. The author shows no quarter to those who grow rich on misery, but we see that beliefs can change and that even the most foul among us can be redeemed.
Alma is a young girl living in an idyllic remote valley with her parents and brothers. They seem immune to the harshness of life in Africa at a time when neighbors betrayed neighbors to slavers and human hunters scoured the land for profitable captives to be sold to European traders. One day she and her youngest brother discover, wonder of wonders, a white horse! The mystery of how it came to find their inaccessible haven is solved when they find that the yearly flood that courses through the thorn-choked gorge that guards their home is covered entirely with water and furnishes a pathway in and out. This is the beginning of their troubles. Young Joseph is a rogue, for sure. He cons his way onto a ship bound for Africa and thence to the New World. He has a plan and a scheme that remain hidden for the greater part of the book, but which we watch unfold piece by piece as the tyrannical captain of the Sweet Amelie drives his crew to load and transport a valuable cargo of humans, obtained from the coastal port towns. The cruelty is dealt out wholesale by a man who asserts that the only thing that can never be found on his ship is “humanity”. Joseph only just manages to survive long enough to reach his goal, but things, as they often do, do not turn out the way the plans intended. More to come later, we see. Joseph and Alma’s paths cross and herein lies the source of what will come in the next two books of this planned trilogy.
The adventure and suspense of Treasure Island and the period attitudes of The Master of Ballantrae provide the flavor of a classic tale, but neither Stevenson nor Scott ever gave us anything with the bite of this story of one of the vilest chapters of our history. An intimate look at the consequences of slavery on a personal level brings the painful episode directly to the reader and demands engagement. A good tale with a real moral. This should find its proper place in educational environments and library reading programs as well as the shelves of book lovers of all ages.