by Echo Fox5 out of 5
Tai is in love and he wants to fly across the mountain shouting it to the skies. He is ready to share his life with Keiko, when a strange event turns his world upside down.
The Daiku, long-time prey of Tai’s tribe of Zephyrus, start fighting back. With the whole tribe in danger from the reptilian creatures that roam the dark forest below, Tai must put all his knowledge of hunting to the test to help safeguard his people.
With the Daiku becoming an ever more erratic threat, control of the hunters is given to a fast-rising star of the Hunting Wing, Aiko, and for a while all seems to be going to plan. The Daiku can be defeated and Tai can finally live his life with Keiko.
However, is everything as it seems? Is Aiko really the Zephyrus’ salvation? Or will Tai need to gamble everything - and everyone - he loves for the greater good?
Trouble is brewing in the harmonious land of Pangaea. Ever since the continent was split into four elemental parts by Strife, the balance has been edging ever so slightly in favour of the dark. Now, four elementals just coming into their powers must meet Strife head on and restore balance to their world.
In Wave Singers, we met Merry and the people of Thera, the Mer as they battled against an unjust tyrant in an underwater kingdom of musical magic.
In Earth Drummer, we followed Gentian as he made a decision that had the power to save his people or leave them to face the darkness alone.
Tai is a promising young hunter of the Zephyrus people, and engaged to the love of his life. But things become stressed as the once-passive Daiku (winged creatures, ugly but tasty) start to become aggressive; and the tribe begins to fracture as new powers rise up.
This is the third in the Equilibria series (reviews of #1 - Wave Singers, and #2 - Earth Drummer), and like its predecessors, Air Riders can be read as a stand-alone, or as part of the series.
Something is fundamentally wrong with Pangaea. As with many problems with nature, the animals are the first to give clues that all is not right. Their behaviour changes, helping unnerve the people around them.
In Earth Drummer, the result was animals getting past fencing to further damage crops already ruined by drought. In Air Riders, there is a much more violent outcome as the Daiku start to swarm and attack the Zephyrus.
Air Riders has an Oriental influence, from the names, to their way of life and respectful behaviour to elders. Not to mention the flying skills, which felt like they could come straight out of House of Flying Daggers.
This all works very well, and gives the story its own flavour and a refreshing new background to work from.
I really liked this book; I enjoyed the tribe life, with its different units of teachers, weavers and hunters all working together. You get to fly with the hunters, down the mountainside, crafting weapons from the air itself.
There's a great build of tension as Aiko, the best hunter in the tribe, conveniently gains power when the rest of the Zephyrus panic over the new threat. Her manipulations are subtle, but surely it's only a matter of time before they are noticed.
Aiko was definitely my favourite character - what can I say, I think the bad guy makes/breaks the story. She has no love for tradition, or for the rules that bind the Zephyrus; Aiko is ready to take every measure to make the tribes bow to her.
I also like how she had a soft spot for the hero - Tai. It seemed very honest, as though she saw him as a younger brother. I often wondered how real it was, or whether it was just another of her lies.
Overall, a very creative adventure. I think Earth Drummer is still my favourite, but this was pretty close.
Bring on Fire Dancer!