Stephen Messer

Random House, May 2010, 289 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-375-86195-6

Genre: Young Reader

Subgenre: Horror / Adventure / Mystery
Reviewed: 4/4/2010

Reviewed by: Conan Tigard

Book Cover


The kite came to a halt only a few feet away.

Oliver did not understand how the kite could fly in the night winds, but he didn't care, for the kite's tail was now dangling tantalizingly in front of him. He leapt and found a fistful of silk. He whooped in triumph as the tail lashed itself around his forearm like a striking whip.

The whoop died as the kite began to drag him, powered by the irresistible force of the night winds, onto the crest.

"I can't," screamed Oliver over the roar of the winds. Bits of leaf and twig blistered his cheeks. He dug in his heels and fought back, knocked from one side to another as the winds beat at him. He pulled as hard as he could. But with the night winds powering the kite, Oliver couldn't win.

The savage winds tearing at him, he struggled up the crest, expecting at any moment to be hurled away. But no matter how ferociously the winds blew, the kite held firm, pulling him higher. He passed the jumping marker, hardly noticing it. His mind was filled with cautionary tales told to Windblowne's children, stories of how the night winds could take a piece of straw and drive it into the trunk of an oak tree like an arrow--or into the body of a foolish child who defied the night winds.

The kite had nearly reached the peak, dragging Oliver just behind. He felt nearly at the end of his strength. The kite loomed over him. The two moons gleamed beyond.

For one instant, the night winds slackened, just enough for Oliver to gather himself for one last pull.

Then the winds blasted back in all their fury. The tail snapped taut and pain tore through Oliver's shoulder. The kite shot into the sky, and Oliver went with it.

Terror flooded him. He had never learned to kite jump, and yet he was, leaping out from the crest, legs kicking. Already he was too high to let go of the kite, even if he could. His only chance was to hang on and attempt a safe landing.

The kite and Oliver rose rapidly, the barren ground racing below. Oliver saw moonlight glinting off the granite marker.

A new though replaced the terror: I'm going to come close to the record.

Now he was flying faster, still rising.

I'm going to BREAK the record!

The granite marker sped by in a blur. Oliver would have yelled in triumph if certain death had not been seconds away. He was hurtling straight toward the oaks, a hundred feet off the ground. The kite continued to rise. The oaks came near, then passed beneath them, the tips of their highest branches brushed Oliver's legs.

Looking down, he saw the treehouses of Windblowne, now far below, and a light escaping through the trees where someone, woken by the winds, moved restlessly, unable to sleep.

Then they passed upward into a chilling mist, and Oliver could see no more.



The town of Windblowne is situated on a mountain and is surrounded by a forest of mighty oak trees. At night, the Night Winds blow and people make sure that they are not outside at that time because the winds are extremely strong. Kids practice jumping from the peak with their kites during the day when the winds are weaker and try to see who can go the farthest.

Oliver lives in the treehouse town of Windblowne and is getting ready for the Festival of Kites. The only problem is the Oliver has absolutely no talent for building kites at all. He is embarrassed by his kite and when he gets ready to jump from the peak, his kite is so weak that it gets destroyed by the winds.

Returning home disgruntled, Oliver's father tells me that he should visit his Great-uncle Gilbert, who was once very good at making kites. Oliver eventually finds Great-uncle Gilbert's treehouse, but his uncle doesn't want anything to do with him. Oliver sees his uncle through a window take a rather plain-looking red kite and hide it away. Oliver returns home  depressed and without a kite.

That night, with the Night Winds howling through the trees, Oliver is laying in bed when the red kite appears at his window. He opens the window, the red kite flies in, and then flies out again, as if asking Oliver to follow it. Oliver, determined to obtain the red kite so he can participate in the Festival of Kites, leaves the safety of his treehouse and follows the kite back to his uncle's treehouse. What he finds when he arrives terrifies him. His uncle is flying two fighting kites and battling with three string-less kites. With a sudden blinding flash, they all disappear. Two more of the black viscous kites head toward Oliver so he runs inside his uncle's treehouse, where the red kite is.

Eventually, Oliver follows the red kite out of the treehouse and they head for the peak. The red kite's tail wraps itself around Oliver's wrists and pulls him over the peak. Hours later, after traveling through a strange mist, the kite returns Oliver to the ground. Oliver realizes with a start that he is back at Windblowne . . . but something is different. The town is gone. It's like it was never built.

Oliver discovers another version of his Great-uncle Gilbert and soon learns that this is an alternate world to his own. This version of his Great-uncle Gilbert, who calls himself Lord Gilbert, has run wires between all of the oak trees and is draining their life so he can use their power to visit different worlds. It is hurting the trees. The Oliver from this world works for Lord Gilbert, but he is sick from traveling to different worlds. This type of travel is slowly killing him.

Lord Gilbert has invented the Handvane Mark IV, which he uses to control everything around him. He can cause Oliver and Two (the name of the Oliver from this world) to freeze with a touch to his HM IV. Lord Gilbert, thinking Oliver must be as talented as Two, wants him to work with Two repairing an maintaining his hunter kites. The hunter kites a nasty kites that has the mind of a hawk surgically implanted in them. Oliver is determined not to help Lord Gilbert in any way.

When Lord Gilbert breaks the spine of the red kite, Oliver finds that he is stuck in this world. He learns that his Great-uncle Gilbert has been left to die on a hell-world, as Lord Gilbert calls it. Oliver also learns that the energy Lord Gilbert is sucking away from the oaks is causing all of the trees to die. Realizing that these trees are inner-connected on all the worlds, Oliver knows that he must find his real great-uncle and stop Lord Gilbert. With Twos help, Oliver is able to repair the red kite and Oliver escapes through the air back into the mist hoping to find the world his real great-uncle is stuck on.

When he lands, he finds that he is not on the hell-world, but another world where kites are outlawed and the town of Windblowne is surrounded by a mighty wall. With his red kite getting weaker and weaker, Oliver realizes that he may never find his Great-uncle Gilbert and may be unable to save the oak trees.

Windblowne is an adventure, science fiction book written by Stephen Messer. This book is intended for young readers ages 8 and older.



Okay, after reading Windblowne by Stephen Messer, now I really want to go an fly a kite. I used to love flying kites as a kid in the city of Houston. We would tie a lot of strings together and make out kites fly so high that you could barely see them. It would take over half and hour to reel them in. Other times, we used to tape razor blades (yes, I know this was dangerous) along the edges of out bat kites and have kite fights, shredding each other's kites. Later, when I was an adult, I bought kites that you could control with two strings, and really enjoyed flying them in San Francisco Bay winds.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that is was unlike any other story I have ever read. Right from the first chapter, I was grabbed by the tempest of words and couldn't stop reading. I just had to know if Oliver was going to save his great-uncle. I just had to know if Oliver was going to find a way back to his own world. I just had to know if Oliver was going to somehow defeat Lord Gilbert and his hunter kites. I just had to know if Oliver was going to be able to save the dying oak trees. I just had to know all these things and it was going to drive me crazy until I found the answers to my questions.

Windblowne is Stephen Messer's first published book and it is a winner. The pace of the story gusts along at a quick pace and the characters are wonderfully developed. The story is extremely intriguing and I was literally blown away with the entire experience. I read the book in bed before I went to sleep at night until I practically dropped it out of my hands because I was falling asleep and didn't want to stop reading. Then, I would get up early the next morning, lay in front of the heater, and read another fifty pages or so. I just couldn't get enough of Windblowne.

Young readers will find themselves breezing through this book as they gobble up the pages. They will fall in love with the idea of traveling through the air on the tail of a kite. The idea of multiple worlds with duplicate versions of the same person, usually with a slight difference, has always intrigued me. I have always been interested by science fiction stories about multiple worlds, and this one is terrific.

Overall, Windblowne is an excellent book that I absolutely loved. I sure home that Oliver braves the Night Winds for travels to other worlds in future books. With an infinite amount of worlds to visit, I am sure that there are more adventures to be found.

I rated this book a 9 out of 10.

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