Matthew Hughes‘ What the Wind Brings is a compelling tale of slaves shipwrecked on the coast of Ecuador attempting to secure their freedom by establishing their own nation (it’s based on a true story). It’s also a captivating tale of outsiders trying to find their place in a frequently hostile world. And it’s historical fiction with engaging dashes of magical realism.
This is the work of an experienced, accomplished writer working at the top of his game. Hughes believes it’s his best work; I will not argue the point. Hughes clearly put a lot of thought, effort and research into What the Wind Brings and it shows in the best possible way. The detail is entirely convincing and not overbearing; Hughes knows how to evoke a place and time while getting on with the interesting bits.
But the story, while fascinating and expertly told, is not the best part. The best part is the characters. Alonso, desperate to make himself useful. Anton, an escaped slave turned war chief and possibly his own worst enemy. Alejandro, a young Trinitarian monk seeking captives to shepherd, entirely without guile. And most compelling of all, Expectation, a Nigua hermaphrodite and healer, and our guide to the spirit world, tolerated (if not hated) by those who benefit from her unique skill set. Along with a host of other characters no less expertly drawn despite less page time.
What the Wind Brings was published by Pulp Literature Press, a small Canadian Small Press (one of the few left). They only started releasing novels in 2017. The quality of the physical copy I read (the trade paperback edition) is on par with that of any publisher, large or small. The book is lovingly put together, from its Willem van de Velde cover art (I do love a nice matte cover) to its professionally copy edited interior, always a joy (and relief) to see.
What the Wind Brings is a superb book by a skilled storyteller that I strongly suggest you move to the top of your Want To Read list.