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Of Wind and Wolves by J.M. Elliot
Historical Fiction available for Free on Substack
Last month I read two historical novels available for free on Substack. Both were serialized as chapters sent to readers’ email inboxes via the authors’ newsletters. They are available now in completed form on the writers’ Substack sites, The Library, and the writers’ other websites.
For my comments on When Trees Fall by Dale Mahfood, see last week's article here.
Today I present the second of the two—Of Wind and Wolves by J.M. Elliot, the writer of The Problematic Pen and one of two writers maintaining the marvelous site mentioned in last week’s article, The Library.
As you know, my historical fiction interests are wide but lean heavily toward times and places less frequently encountered on the buying shelves. J.M. Elliot’s Of Wind and Wolves is set in the 5th century BC, on the Ukrainian steppe, and inspired by a passage from The Histories of Herodotus. Of course, that grabbed my immediate attention.
Within a few sentences, I submerged into Elliot’s fluid prose, transported to the world of her main character, Anaiti.
Anaiti, the daughter of an Amazon woman, raised among her mother's nomadic people, is also the daughter of a Bastarnai king—a settled and farming tribe who distrusts her Amazon heritage.
As her story begins, she is already a multi-cultured creature, but through a marriage agreement must now live among the Skythians—more wild and nomadic than her mother’s people, but just as distrustful of her Amazon identity as the Bastarnai.
Thus she arrives in her new world, but circumstances soon drive her to an even more remote and violent life than the secluded tent of a husband-king. To delay her marriage, she chooses to travel with her host’s Warband, a border patrol who roams the farthest reaches of the territories, addressing threats along the frontier before these threats encroach Skythian lands.
This is a path where deprivation and violence are the norm, a land where courage, loyalty, and brutality are a daily matter of life and death.
In this context, Anaiti must navigate the intricacies of existing relationships and establish her own allies within the fighting unit as together they battle against the invasion of other peoples. As time passes, her bonds to the land and to her war leader increase the stakes of her impending future as the third wife of an elderly king. To spend her life confined in a tent and entangled with tribal politics rather than roaming the wilderness on the back of a horse becomes more untenable.
J.M. Elliot’s text enchants like the endless steppe she portrays. Anaiti’s worldview grows alongside ours as she learns to thrive in this hostile yet majestic land and people.
Of Wind and Wolves is described as Volume One of The Steppe Saga and ends on an “Oh, no!” So, I hope Ms. Eliot is off somewhere scribbling the next volume.
Of Wind and Wolves can be found here complete with map and backmatter describing some of her extensive research.
Historical fiction, the way I love it, opens up new worlds. In Of Wind and Wolves, you can experience the vast landscape, feel the biting cold, and ride horseback through rivers and snow from the safety of your own home.
This story is glorious but not for the faint of heart.
Have you read anything set in the Long Ago & Far Away recently?
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