Space Gals and Furry Pals: A review of Library of the Sapphire Wind by Jane Lindskold

Our reviews section spilled over and we didn’t have enough space to review all of the books Baen sent us in the magazine, so we’re running a couple of them here! Be sure to pick up the Fall Issue out now in Softcover, Hardcover, and eBook! The issue currently out has J. Comer’s review of Pournelle’s Janissaries series.

     The late Ursula K. Le Guin authored A Wizard of Earthsea, The Left Hand of Darkness and more than sixty other books. While her SF and fantasy are her legacy, Le Guin also penned her share of nonfiction. In her essay “The Space Crone,”[1] she imagines an older woman (rather than the usual men and boys) as the ideal ambassador to other worlds, as she would know more of human existence. “Into the space ship, Granny,” she urged.

     Jane Lindskold took apart the ‘crazy cat lady’ stereotype in the Man-Kzin tale, “Two Kinds of Teeth,” and she takes Le Guin’s idea and flies with it in Library Of The Sapphire Wind. Three old ladies attending a book club find themselves drawn by magic into a world peopled by anthropomorphic animal-folk (“furries”) and sent on a quest for the eponymous library aboard a flying ship. This author is fond of animal characters, as evidenced by her Firekeeper Saga and its wolves, but her furries are remarkably tasteful. At the library, the old ladies and their furry pals explore the ruined setting, battle the local monsters, and begin to find both wisdom and atonement for the misdeeds of their parents. The humans must be concealed. At a desert necropolis, the story unfolds further. We learn of a missing child, and a long-broken artifact, and a deal. The adventuring party returns to the Library, fights a huge battle, and… The story ends. Huh?

     The story has some issues.  The dramatic tension of teleporting the three heroes into a world without prescription medication, special diets, or therapy is resolved too quickly.  Humans can breathe the air, eat the food, even smoke the ‘weeds’ of an alien planet? Really?  The old-lady heroes are promising but not well developed as characters. And the ending of the novel (which is part of the “Over Where” series) is much too abrupt. This book might appeal to readers of second-world fantasy with furries taking the place of elves and gnomes. I can imagine reading it to kids at bedtime or in classroom storytime, but it needs a stronger ending (perhaps the next book will address this).

     A Facebook meme that has been current across the last five years pays homage to the space crone. It goes, “I’d read the hell out of a series of [books about] a chosen eighty-five-year-old woman who goes on epic journeys throughout a dangerous and magical land, armed only with a cane and her stab-tastic knitting needles, accompanied by her six cats and a skittish-yet-devoted orderly who makes sure she takes her pills on time.”  When I opened Sapphire Wind, I was expecting this, more or less. If I didn’t get it, well, I still like Lindskold’s writing, furries and all. Hoping for more adventures in the “Over Where” from Lindskolsd.    


[1] In Dancing At The Edge Of The World (Grove Press, 1989)

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