Windrider is the second of the Floramonde books, though unlike other books in series, they all can be read on their own or out of order, and indeed when it came to the first book The Willow Tree’s Daughter, the chapters themselves could be read out of sequence thanks to the format which made the book appear more like a collection of short stories rather than a complete novel.
That trend in format does not continue into Windrider, as it must be read from cover to cover, but although I enjoyed the freedom of picking and choosing chapters in The Willow Tree’s Daughter, the style and grace with which Pamela Freeman creates her magical world is so whimsical that it doesn’t matter here. In The Willow Tree’s Daughter, the reader learnt of the love between the High King Max and his wife Salixia. Once a dryad, Max’s love for Salixia saved her when her tree was destroyed, and together they had a daughter named Betony. Betony had the heritage of a dryad within her, and after a visit from the dragon Windrider, she learnt that one day she might have the opportunity to “put down roots” and fully become a tree spirit. But with her engagement to her beloved friend Basil the gardener’s boy, all thoughts of that seemed lost…
Until now. In Windrider, the magnificent dragon comes once more to the kingdom of Floramonde, to once again offer Betony the choice of rulership or of freedom in the high country. Realizing her ties to her family and friends, Betony declines, but then her father meets the fatal gaze of the dragon’s eye… To look directly into the eye of the dragon has an odd effect on a human being — they become a part of the Wild Magic, forgetting their name, stealing away their hearts, and having only a desire to be free from human restraints. Such is what happens to King Max, and it is now up to Betony to go in search of Windrider to release her father and save her mother, for without the life-giving love of Max, and with her tree destroyed, Salixia can find no reason to live, and begins to waste away.
So begins the quest — Betony must pass through the Dark Forest of Nevermore in search of Windrider, but finds along the way the dryad Ulmus, who offers to teach her the secrets of her forest-heritage: how to talk to the wind and the trees. Soon Betony finds that her gifts with Wild Magic are quite wonderful things — perhaps she does want to become a dryad after all. Mindful of such worries, her betrothed Basil and her best friend the witch-in-training Clover have followed her into the woods, but they’ll have to face dangers of their own (such as a shape-changing troll and a dying oak tree) if they want to reach Betony in time before she’s lost to them forever.
Among new characters are our old favourites — Ralph, Rosie, Cassandra, as well as new creatures: the Chimera, the hill men, Corvus and more, all mingling together in this simple but beautiful book. Be sure to follow up with the remaining installment The Centre of Magic.
In the wake of the Harry Potter books, many other fantasy books are either being gobbled up by young readers or completely ignored — such is the blessing or curse of being an author writing in the shadow of a hugely popular success. As much as I do like the Harry Potter books, I don’t think its wise to completely refrain yourself from reading only them and no others. If you like fantasy, but are looking for a swifter, lighter, fresher read, then please try the Floramonde books. The writing is elegant and poetic, and though they are nowhere as complex as the Harry Potter books, they carry the same messages of love, courage and friendship, as well as deeper shades of the mysterious and the profound (to be found in the last pages of Windrider).
Floramonde — (1996-2009) Ages 9-12. From Author’s Website: When Betony was a baby, the court wizard made a prophecy: she will be friends with strange creatures; she will face danger many times; she will find love in unexpected places; and she will become a great queen. Betony is brought up to be a proper princess, but she hates all the fuss about dancing, embroidery and the right way to talk to a viscount. She’d rather work in the garden or explore the world outside the palace. So she runs away, and through her adventures she discovers that it takes courage and the help of good friends — including a certain gardener’s boy — to find her true path in life.