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Wikipedia article

'Windhaven' is a science-fiction and fantasy novel written by novelist and screenwriter George R. R. Martin, and novelist Lisa Tuttle. The novel is a collection of short stories compiled and first published together in 1981 by Simon and Schuster. It was later reprinted by Bantam Spectra in hardcover in 2001, and in mass market paperback in 2003. 'Windhaven' was nominated for a Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1982.


The novel recounts events which occur on the fictional planet Windhaven. Its inhabitants are the descendants of human space voyagers who crash-landed on Windhaven centuries before the events of the book take place. After the crash, the survivors spread out across the many islands of Windhaven's primarily oceanic planetary surface and settled. In order to preserve tenuous lines of communication across vast seas, the stranded population constructed mechanically simplistic gliding rigs from available space-ship wreckage, which could be kept aloft by human pilots almost indefinitely in Windhaven's extremely windy atmosphere. After centuries of using this practice as the principal means of maintaining continuous social contact, Windhaven's "flyers" have developed into a class clearly separate from all others. Additionally, the flyer class maintains ownership of the flying rigswhich are commonly known as "wings"by keeping them within dynastic flyer families and, therefore, none of Windhaven's people aside from those born into flyer families can legitimately aspire to ever wear them. These class-based differences serve as the impetus for the novel's character-driven narrative.

Plot summary


Maris is a young peasant girl who lives with her mother on the remote island Lesser Amberly. Her father, a fisherman, was killed an unspecified number of years before and Maris hardly remembers him. Though Maris and her mother survive mostly as scavenging "clam-diggers," they also collect refuse that washes onto the nearby beaches after violent coastal storms. Early one morning, Maris and her mother rise from bed and scour the beaches near their hovel for valuables after a particularly brutal tempest. Maris's search is largely fruitless and she recovers little. Afterward, however, she has a pivotal encounter with one of Windhaven's resident flyers.

Lesser Amberly itself is home to three flyers, one of whom, an adult male named Russ, lands on the shore near where Maris has concluded her search. Maris timidly approaches Russ and, during the chance meeting, he treats her with kindness and she, in turn, reveals to him that her most ardent wish is to become one of Windhaven's flyers.

Part One: Storms

Maris, now a young adult, has been adopted by Russ who, because of serious injury, was forced to give up his life as a flyer. Customarily, flyer-wings always pass to the oldest biological child of an established flyer. At the time of Russ's injury, however, Russ and his wife had no children. So Russ, in response to Maris's enthusiasm, trained her and then granted her the right to wear his own wings. Since then, Maris has been acting as one of Lesser Amberly's three resident flyers by ferrying messages across the oceans and between Windhaven's colonies. But, shortly after Maris was entrusted with the wings, Russ's wife gave birth to a son, Coll. Coll has just turned thirteen and it is traditional that at thirteen young flyers "come of age" and replace their parents as the ceremonial owners of the family wings. In this case, Coll is set to take Russ's wings back from Maris as her claim is universally considered to be inferior to Coll's own. However, Maris strongly desires to keep the wings for a number of reasons, and namely because Coll has failed to prove that he is, or ever will become, a competent flyer. Additionally, unbeknownst to Russ, it is actually Coll's dream to become a traveling singer. Things are further complicated because Maris loves Coll both as a sister and as a motherthe latter being a role she gradually took on after Russ's wife died in childbirth. As a result, Maris, knowing that her desire to keep the wings is unrecognized by the ancient "flyer code," ultimately wants what will be best for Coll.

Matters are later put back in Maris's hands, however, when, on the day Coll is to officially take the wings and become Lesser Amberley's newest flyer, he accidentally commits a grievous piloting error in a demonstration flight and suffers from the jarring effects of a botched landing in front of Maris, Russ, and many of the important citizens of Lesser Amberly. Coll then refuses to take over stewardship of the wings, and he reveals to Russ that he will pursue a life as a singer and musician. Russ responds by angrily disowning both Maris and Coll, and the wings are confiscated by one of Lesser Amberley's other flyers, Corm. Corm soon lets it be known that he intends to give the wings to a flyer from a neighboring village, as he maintains that Maris never had a claim on the wings to begin with. Maris decides she must act quickly if she is to have any chance to get the wings back. In the night, she steals the wings from Corm and flies to another island. There she hands the wings over to the flyer Dorrel. Maris intends to have Dorrel call a "flyer's council"a rare meeting of nearly all of Windhaven's flyersin order to prove that she deserves the right to wear the wings. However, a flyer arrives and notifies Dorrel that Corm has already called for a council to be held. Soon after, at the council, Corm argues that Maris should be declared an outlaw and thus be forced into exile for the theft of the wings. But Maris responds to Corm's attacks skillfully, and she succeeds in convincing the other flyers that the family-based system of wing-inheritance is unfair and archaic. The council then votes in favor of measures allowing for the creation of flyer academies, where any of Windhaven's citizens may learn to fly, and an annual flying competition, during which aspiring flyers will be allowed to compete for a chance to win their own wings from real flyers. The council also leniently honors Maris's request to keep Russ's wings.

Part Two: One-Wing

The middle chapter of Windhaven resumes some years after part one and documents several of Maris's attempts to help persons without flyer lineage, or "one-wings," as they've become colloquially known in the colonies, train for the chance to compete for their own wings. Maris's loyalties to old friends often make her choices difficult, but she remains determined to force more change on Windhaven's society. As a result, she spends most of her spare time at Woodwings, the first flyer academy built after the historic council. Early on, Maris learns that the only other functional new flyer academy has been closed because of a lack of interest. She is also told that one of its students is journeying to Woodwings in order to continue training. When Maris meets the new flyer, Val, she realizes that he is the original "one-wing," a now-infamous peasant man who won a set of wings away from one of Maris's oldest friends, a female flyer belonging to a venerated flyer family, in one of the first yearly flyer competitions. However, at the time the competition was held, the flyer Val challenged was still mourning the recent death of her brother, who was another flyer. Val's challenge was thereby regarded by the flyer community as being both dishonorable and despicable. Tragically, the defeated flyer even killed herself after losing her wings to Val. Though Val gave up the wings after being beaten by another flyer at the subsequent yearly competition, he quickly proves his competence to Maris and becomes friends with one of her most promising students, a southern born female one-wing named S'Rella. Together, Val and S'Rella make plans to fly in the coming flyer's contest. Shortly before the competition, however, Val is seriously hurt. Maris, who has come to respect Val, is allowed to fly in his place and wins his wings from Corm. S'Rella also wins her own wings for the first time.

Part Three: The Fall

After nearly dying in a fierce storm, Maris finds that she is unable to fly, or to fully recover from her many injuries. She therefore attempts to distance herself from other flyers and the burgeoning one-wing culture because of her grief. However, when a one-wing imprisoned by a powerful island landowner is hanged for a controversial crime, Maris is urged to return to the center of flyer-related events because a growing circle of one-wing flyers has formed in the sky over the site of the execution in a massive showing of continuous protest, terrifying the island's populace. Maris returns in time to help resolve the potentially catastrophic dispute and, afterward, she decides to accept an offered position as head of a flyer academy.


An elderly Maris receives a singer at her bedside. She recites to the singer the words of a song written by her brother, Coll. The song is Coll's last testament to Marisone of the most important flyers in Windhaven's history.

Literary Significance and Criticism




Category:Fantasy novels

Category:1981 novels

Category:Literary collaborations

Category:Novels by George R. R. Martin



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