Book Review: An Atypical Hero, Gom on Windy Mountain

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Minor spoilers ahead.

A good friend lent me The Riddle and the Rune, second in Grace Chetwin’s Tales of Gom.  This friend said, and I agree, that I had to meet Gom Gobblechuck, hero of this series, because he so resembles in many ways the hero of my own W.I.P.  I greatly enjoy Gom, but finally returned to the first book of the series, Gom on Windy Mountain, which this friend had never read, only recently.

Each of the first two books in the series reads well independently.  Having read the second first, I was sure of some outcomes in Gom on Windy Mountain, which may have affected my experience.  If anything this helped me to enjoy Gom on Windy Mountain, given my propensity to stall when the tale turns sad or dangerous.  I only balked once against the dangers in which Gom finds himself in this adventure and quickly soothed my fears by reminding myself that he lives for the span of several books at least.

Dangerous and exciting though this quick read is, it is a far cry from the epic fantasy adventures, like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, so much in vogue today.  In this first book, Gom fights no great evil.  The fate of the world, so far as anyone including Gom can tell, will not be decided on Windy Mountain.  This book recounts, I would even venture to say, probably Gom’s first encounter with true wickedness.  He has seen cruelty and known dislike, but never met a murderer.  The village by which Gom lives with his father is small and remote.  The people, though superstitious and closed-minded, are essentially good.

Evil has to come to Clack from the outside.

But this evil is not like Voldemort.  Skeller is greedy, grasping, cruel, and unafraid to kill, but he does not seek world domination, genocide, or the reordering of society.  He is essentially nobody in the grand scheme of the world, nor really does Gom seem to be.  If Gom’s adventures had ended on Windy Mountain, he would have been mourned by his father, his sister, his brother, and maybe some of his animal friends.  The world would have continued without much change.  For that reason in particular, I consider him an atypical hero.  Nothing is expected of Gom except, perhaps, that he will watch after his father, Stig, and cut the wood for Clack when Stig is gone.

Gom, like Harry or Percy, is separated from the general population and is outcast.  Percy and Harry both overcome dislike, however, while Gom never does.  Harry and Percy both win favor from their peers through friendship and feats of bravery.  Gom reserves most of his kindness for a select group of people, his animal friends, and the winds (there he differs too from my W.I.P.’s hero) and is only outcast for his bravery.  Unlike the other two, Gom’s great power goes practically unrecognized, even by himself.

Those especially seeking a more down-to-earth hero and fantasy-fans who favor personal quests to epic battles (in this it hearkens to Ursula K. LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea) will especially enjoy this series.

***

Chetwin, Grace.  Tales of Gom in the Legends of Ulm, Book One: Gom on Windy Mountain.  New York: Laurel Leaf Fantasy-Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1986.

The books have been reprinted in ebook form by the author via Feral Press Inc.

This review is not endorsed by Grace Chetwin, Laurel Leaf Books, Dell Publishing Group, Bantam, Doubleday, or Feral Press Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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