Licia Troisi, Nihal of the Land of the Wind

There is a certain kind of story, like the first Harry Potter book (and NOT like the later books in that same series), that may work very well for preteens or very young teens, but which absolutely get on my nerves. They’re what I call self-insertion fantasies, and the whole point seems to be to give the reader the chance to fantasize about being someone special. The story is almost all action, with very little internal character development, and the language, too, tends to be very simple. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of the reader’s total self-identification with the protagonist.

This starts out as that kind of story. The protagonist, Nihal, is very special. Her appearance is distinctive; she loves to fight, and she is extraordinarily talented as a fighter. When a fifteen year old girl learns fighting so quickly and intuitively that she is able to beat ten well-trained fully grown warriors, one after the other, we’re definitely in wish-fulfillment territory. The adventures she has are a progression that might appeal greatly to readers who just want a character to identify with and lots of adventures to see that character perform in.

Then there’s a twist. I won’t spoil it, but it’s very appropriate if the intended readers are pre-teens or early teens, and it takes the book out of wish-fulfillment territory and into coming-of-age territory.

I can’t recommend this book to well-read fantasy readers, because neither the world-building or the character and her journey really stand out. But I think it might be a very wonderful first fantasy for a certain kind of young reader, which may account for its best-seller status in Italy, its original country of publication.

Note: I got a copy of this book for free at Book Expo America. I have no other connection with the publisher.

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