Although there are subtle differences between place and style, the stories in Metro Winds explore the archetype of the quest through the lens of speculative fiction. The fantasy stories, ‘The Wolf Prince’, ‘The Girl Who Could See the Wind’ and ‘Metro Winds’ are the book’s highest points. Perhaps incidentally, these three stories have female protagonists but they also emulate the conventions of ‘quest fantasy’. Significantly, they describe a search for identity and place. For example, the girl in ‘Metro Winds’ is wrenched from her home beside the ocean and taken to the city, where her windows are painted shut. She later experiences an epiphany and discovers her true self in the surreal, untamed metro.
The three stories with male protagonists are linked by air travel in the real world. Each of the protagonists has travelled from Australia, or a similar place, to Europe. Airports are waiting places. These stories share that weariness: time has changed and folded; a task must be achieved. In ‘The Dove Game’, the man is keeping a rendezvous in place of another man who died amongst the eucalypts. ‘The Stranger’ is in search of vampires in Greece and ‘The Man Who Lost his Shadow’ enters an even darker place. All the men are seeking, and all believe they must cross time and space to fulfil their quests. Their worlds are those of ‘real’ places while the fantasy stories, particularly ‘The Wolf Prince’ and ‘The Girl Who Could See the Wind’ move from the real world to the secondary world of fantasy. Willow, the girl who could see the wind, is taken to an Australian-like place from her northern hemisphere home by her grieving mother. This new place becomes home but the park she sees from her window, and is not meant to enter, is not in a dimension that most others can see. The young woman in ‘The Wolf Prince’ becomes a princess in the land of faerie, which sits physically beside her Venetian-like city. She is able to move between the two places after fulfilling the tasks that allow her to transform her prince but where does she truly belong?
Many of Isobelle Carmody’s themes, motifs and concerns from her acclaimed Obernewtyn Chronicles appear in Metro Winds. These include dreams, secrets, beasts and misfits. Some of the short stories are for older readers – mature secondary and adults, but the others will beguile all readers of sophisticated speculative fiction.
by Joy Lawn, Children’s Literature Consultant