Review: Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov

Posted June 22, 2014 by Jessica in Fantasy, Jessica, Reviews / 76 Comments

Review: Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov
Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov
Published by Tor Books
Published on: June 17 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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Centuries after the disastrous War of the Necromancers, the Nabatorians, aligned with the evil necromancers of Sdis, mount an invasion of the Empire. Luk, a soldier, and Ga-Nor, a Northern barbarian, are thrown together as they attempt to escape the Nabatorian hordes and find their way back to their comrades.

Gray and Layan are a married couple, master thieves who are hiding out and trying to escape their former gang. They hope to evade the bounty hunters that hound them and retire to a faraway land in peace.

Tia is a powerful dark sorceress and one of The Damned—a group trying to take over the world and using the Nabatorian invasion as a diversion.

Unfortunately, for Gray and Layan, they unwittingly hold the key to a powerful magical weapon that could bring The Damned back to power.

Hounded by the killers on their trail and by the fearsome creatures sent by The Damned, Gray and Layan are aided by Luk and Ga-Nor—and Harold, the hero of The Chronicles of Siala. Realizing what’s at stake they decide that, against all odds, they must stop The Damned.

Chasers of the Wind is the first book in a new series from internationally bestselling author Alexey Pehov.


So I don’t think I’ve read a translated book before. At least not a recently translated book.

I’ve thought about it. I mean, the book was popular enough in it’s native language to get translated into English and re-published, so that speaks highly for it, right? Yeah, definitely . . .


Language is a complex and beautiful thing, and this isn’t a real life interaction where only the gist of the information needs to be understood. This is LITERATURE, and there is not one thing that anyone can say to convince me that Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening doesn’t lose some essential spark when it’s adapted into something not-English. The words are like a dance, expertly choreographed, and that cannot be translated.

So that’s why I’ve kind of avoided this kind of book in the past. And you know what?

I was right.


Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov was a surprisingly good read. It took awhile, but the characters grew on me. This is straight-up fantasy, so there are multiple POVs, but not too many, and the shifting perspectives are mostly focused on pairs.

My favorite pair is Ness and Layen/Gray and Weasel, an assassin husband and wife team (Gray and Weasel are their “working” names). Gray is an expert shot with almost any kind of bow, and Weasel has the Gift (MAGIC), but as far as we know, is completely unaffiliated with the magical hierarchy, the strangeness of this circumstance being communicated in various, but thankfully not obvious, ways.

Second favorite pair is Luk and Ga-Nor. Luk is a rascal and a solider who is overfond of dice, and Ga-Nor is a Northern tracker, and viewed by the majority of society as a savage. Ga-Nor keeps Luk out of trouble, Luk lightens things up for taciturn Ga-Nor, and they just work well together. I like them.

NOT my favorite is Pork, the village idiot, and Tia, or Typhoid, the Overlord, or Damned, depending on who you ask. Pork is the Noah Percy in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village variety of village idiot—NOT the good kind, the creepy and sinister kind. And Tia is a spoiled brat who has probably been a spoiled brat for the entirety of her existence (over 500 years).

So the characters were pretty well-developed and mostly likable, unless the point was not to like them, then you didn’t.

The world-building was . . . interesting. The book begins with the fall of the impregnable fortress. The early and very thorough takeover of the impregnable fortress doesn’t happen until you’ve been told SIX times in four pages how awesomely awesome this fortress is, and how it will never, EVER fall.

*rolls eyes*

And that magical hierarchy I spoke of earlier? They’re most often referred to as Walkers and Embers. Embers are kind of obvious. Walkers, not so much, but we didn’t find out until 77% into the book what they actually were.

Then there’s Luk’s overuse of his favorite curse, “screw a toad.” 33 times. 33 times, he swears, “screw a toad.”

And that’s a good intro to the language crossover issues.

Using nature inspired names is a fairly common practice. Especially in fantasy where you often find numerous magical and diverse peoples. Elves, Fae, earth magic users, etc. will have names like Rowan Whitethorn of House Somekindoftree. This happens in contemporary novels too. One of my favorite non-magical characters is named Blue Echohawk.

But what about House Strawberry?


Or House Butterfly?

*frowns and squints*

Okay, maybe, if we’re talking about cute, little Tinkerbell fairies. Maybe. But take a gander at that book cover. Does that look like the cover of a book with cute, little Tinkerbell fairies?


Houses Strawberry and Butterfly are two of the seven Highborn (Elf) houses, and though we don’t actually meet any of them (well, there is one, but he doesn’t count), we are lead to believe that they are a rather fierce and warmongering people.

And they’d have to be. Otherwise no one would take them seriously.

So there are the bizarre name issues. And then there are the bizarre dialogue and description issues.

The dialogue issue is most obvious in a conversation between two of the Overlords, Tia and Rovan (<——the Highborn who doesn’t count). Rovan is acting completely out of character, and Tia, rather than saying something like, “Who are you, and what have you done with Rovan?” which would make sense to a native English speaker, says, “I don’t recognize you.”

*frowns and squints AGAIN*

And I’m familiar enough with the Rascal Soldier character to assume that he is more than a joker and a gambler. But that belief was a deliberate decision, b/c there wasn’t any evidence to support that claim. At least not until more than halfway through the book when Ness comments that, “Luk, despite his frivolity, is not a man to mess with,” and the lack of evidence had been such that that one statement filled me with a sense of vindication.


Overall, Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov was an entertaining enough read that the obvious translation misfires were merely nuisances that I flicked away like a gnat. The alternately interesting and monstrous creatures, as well as the complexities of the magical races drew me in completely. While I’d not yet classify Chasers of the Wind as dark fantasy, there are definitely hints of darker things to come. Necromancers, overtly feared Overlords known to the masses as Leprosy and Consumption who wield great and terrible power, and wizards whose primary function is controlling demons we’ve yet to encounter, all promise more exciting chapters from this world. I’ll definitely read the next book, and I’d recommend this to readers who like a bit of nefarious in their fantasy.

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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76 responses to “Review: Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov

    • Well, fortunately House of Strawberry and Butterfly were mere mentions (thus far). They just best illustrated my claim. Although I suspect “Mink” or “Ferret” would have been better translations for whatever “Weasel” was in Russian, that was the oddest MC name.

    • If Pork had gone on one more ramble about virgins, I don’t even know . . . But, yes, uncomfortable is an excellent way to describe him. And I stopped expecting him to redeem himself fairly early. I was expecting him to put a knife in someone. Like Noah Percy 😉

    • And you just showed me how ethnocentric I can be. I’ve been vaguely curious about the number of friends I’ve made on Goodreads who aren’t native English speakers. I’m not less impressed with their (and your) grasp of English, but yeah, that makes a LOT of sense.

  1. But what about House Strawberry?
    Or House Butterfly?
    *frowns and squints*
    Okay, maybe, if we’re talking about cute, little Tinkerbell fairies. Maybe. But take a gander at that book cover. Does that look like the cover of a book with cute, little Tinkerbell fairies?

    That made me giggle a lot . I llike both types of fae : the cutesy and menacing kind .

    Ok on to the book, I sounds like an amazing journey type of book and I agree it’s almost impossible to recreate the magic when translating .

    Lovely review, Jessica

  2. I haven’t done many translated books. Outside of some really old classics (Homer and Dante), the only thing I’ve done was the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, which I do recommend. I listened, which I think made it easier for me. The narrator was good. But I think if I read, there are parts where I might have put the book down and not finished. I am glad I was able to push through.

    Great review Jessica.
    Melanie Simmons recently posted…My Favorite Audiobook Series Giveaway #audiobookmonth #JIAM2014

    • Exactly. That’s why I amended to recently translated. And most of those were in college, so my professors would point out what the original Greek words from particularly interesting sections meant vs the English version. And yeah, I’ve heard those are good. I have the paperbacks though, LOL. Maybe I’ll be able to push through them anyway 😉

      Thanks, Melanie!

  3. Are you suggesting that my families family crest of strawberries on a green field is not as tough as we were led to believe?

    I think this may be my next read, though I was scared within pages of starting by a few translation quibbles. What makes things hard here is you will never known what is author intent and what is translation issues.
    Nathan ( recently posted…Tough Traveling – Mentors

    • Your family crest sounds lovely! I think you can get away with a lot on a crest that you can’t with a House name. Words are more literal than pictures, LOL.

      And you are right. Those first few pages were pretty terrible, and with Luk in particular I regret not knowing the author’s intent. He comes across as nothing more than a gambling idiot for probably the first half of the book, and then I’d get glimpses of more. But what? VERY frustrating. I really did get sucked into the story though. It just took about half of the book to get me there . . .

  4. I’ve read quite a few translated novels for classes, but none of them were fantasy. Distinguishing between what the author’s intended names were and what the translation had them result in sounds pretty difficult. Then again, it’s kind of difficult to make strawberries and butterflies sound tough, even if it was a translation error. House Strawberry just makes me think of wood nymphs or sprites, not bad-ass elves.
    Danya recently posted…ARC Review: Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper

    • House Strawberry made me think of Strawberry Shortcake. And sometimes I think it might be a cultural thing. Like “butterfly” in Spanish is mariposa, which is a pretty name, and I’ve met people named Mariposa and not batted an eye. But if I were to meet a girl named Butterfly . . .

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever read a translated work before but info agree that language is a beautiful thing and sometimes the beauty of the words get lost in translation.

    I’m glad you ended up enjoying this though, straight up fantasies are not my usual reads but I do love the idea of necromancers and such! I will definitely keep this in mind when I get in the mood to read outside my comfort zone! Awesome review Jessica!
    Amir recently posted…FacePalm Moment: I forgot our 1st Blogoversary (…but hey, #giveaway!)

    • Thanks, Amir! And if you ever do get in the mood for straight-up dark fantasy (which necromancers and whatnot), I could probably recommend something much better than this. Just sayin’ 😉

  6. Are you telling me you haven’t read Inkheart? ARE YOU because I don’t even know what to tell you if you haven’t read Inkheart 😛

    But also seriously, Screw a Toad? That is the creepiest curse I have come across. Like wow. SCREW A TOAD. Okay… that’ll take some time to process.

    I am curious (although screw a toad has tamed some of that curiosity) because an assassin husband and wife team? Interesting.. very interesting..

    Fantastic review, Jess! 🙂
    Rashika recently posted…Potato Prints #2: Words of Radiance, Across the Universe, Hunger Games, If I Stay

    • Thanks, Rashika! And I don’t blame you for your tamed curiosity, LOL. Husband and wife assassin teams ARE pretty cool. But yeah, between “screw a toad” and House Strawberry . . .

      And . . . no, I have not read Inkheart . . . like I said, I’ve thought about other translated books (Inkheart, Night Watch, Ruby Red), but never actually done it . . . are you saying I should??

    • That’s what I’m thinking. And there was a lot of that. I didn’t realize it until I read this, but it’s not unusual for the same general thought to be spoken in a variety of ways in a single conversation (in any book). BUT. In this book, that same specific thought was repeated. Verbatim. This happened in several different, unrelated places. Now, I’m starting to think maybe the translator was either not very good, or lazy . . .

    • Thank you! *blushes* And no, I didn’t. I have family stuff this weekend (AND next weekend). But I’m going to Dragon Con end of August, so it’s cool. Are YOU going to Dragon Con? I can’t remember if I’ve already asked you that or not . . .

  7. I totally hear you on this, there sometimes really is something lost in translation. I have read, one, hmm, maybe two books before that have been translated and while they were good, I always felt like I was missing…something.
    kindlemom1 recently posted…The Sunday Post

    • And you’ll never know what, and that makes it even WORSE. But also, in this case, the misfires with details were a bit more obvious in addition to the overall picture issues. And still, it was good. Really makes me wonder how awesome it would be in Russian, you now?

  8. I feel the same way about translated books. I think somewhere along the way, some deeper substance of the original work fades away in the translated language. The last books I read were by Yoko Ogawa. And while I relatively enjoyed them, I have these nagging feeling that I’m missing something.

    I haven’t heard of this one before, but your review has me curious.

    Great review, Jessica.


    I’m not sorry you found The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Nope. Not at all. 🙂
    Joy (Joyousreads) recently posted…Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 115

    • Thanks, Joy! You know, I majored in English when I was in college, so I had to take a Linguistics course. One of the points that class made was that native language speakers have a grasp of their language that cannot be learned. It’s almost innate. I understood the concept, but it wasn’t until ready this that I REALLY understood. B/c yes, something was definitely missing.

      I’m not sorry either. LOVED it. I’ve already sent the link to half a dozen friends at least 😉

  9. House Strawberry?? Eeeeeeh… it makes me think of Strawberry Shortcake and it’d make me giggle all the time seeing it in a book… Translation issues are so not cool! Since I started being good enough to read books in English I stopped reading any more translated books from English to Spanish, even more since I spotted some obvious mistakes on the Harry Potter book translations, for example…
    Glad to hear that despite the mistakes here and there you still managed to enjoy the book!
    Pili recently posted…Showcase Sunday #38!

    • OMG that is EXACTLY what I thought!! Strawberry Shortcake is the opposite of fierce, LOL. And yeah, translation issues are definitely not cool. Especially since the book was still good despite those issues. It makes me wonder how much better it could have been. And I don’t even want to think about a badly translated Harry Potter. *shudders*

  10. Okay, I definitely commend you for getting through this book, it sounds like one that I’d start and maybe end up marking as DNF. The multiple POVs would have driven me nuts! I like a complex world but not when I have to take notes to remember what’s going on…LOL This one might not be for me but your review was highly entertaining Jessica! House Strawberry..WTH? LOL
    Lori recently posted…COYER Summer Vacation | Let’s Get This Party Started!

    • RIGHT?! I’m really glad that I’m not the only one to get hung up on that, LOL. And I don’t mind multiple POVs as long as the switches aren’t choppy or lack demarcations, and that wasn’t a problem here. Honestly, I was more bothered by the constant, “screw a toad!” exclamations. Thanks, Lori!

  11. I’d initially taken a pass on this book. I’m wary about books that are translated because so much depends on the quality and skill of the translator and figured I would check this out after more reviews have come out. A copy showed up on my doorstep earlier this week though, so I guess I’ll be reading this sooner than I thought! I think I might like this!
    Mogsy recently posted…YA Weekend: Earth Star by Janet Edwards

    • Yeah, that’s pretty much why I’ve avoided translations too, but I was a bit request-happy when I saw this, so I thought, hey, why not? And I’m interested in your thoughts, b/c I know you’ve read WAY more fantasy than I have, and I picked up on enough similarities to raise my eyebrows, but not enough to really make a fuss about it . . . I hope what I noticed is where it ends, but you’d definitely be able to pick out more than I did. ANYWAY, I hope you like it regardless!

  12. I’m not a big fan of fantasy but I read the ones that TOR sends me and some are really good. So I think it’s ok to read one from time to time and I’m glad you had a great time with this one, it’s the first time I hear about it. Thanks for the review!

    • No problem, girlie. And if fantasy isn’t one of your main genres, I’d skip this one, Melliane. It’s a pretty decent read, but I don’t think it’s good enough to hold the attention of someone who isn’t already a fan.

    • I’m stubborn about fantasy, so I keep reading even I’m not immediately engaged, BUT there have been a few series that were so great, I was hooked from the first few pages—the prologue from The Eye of the World (WoT #1) was like that, and so was Sara Douglass’s Wayfarer Redemption, and ToG. I guess I’m spoiled b/c I have been instantly enthralled by fantasy worlds before, so when that doesn’t happen . . . *wrinkles nose*

  13. Good on you for reading a translated novel! I’ve read several over the years, but only because for awhile there I was majorly into Japanese horror (Battle Royale and The Ring- which is a trilogy and way freakier than the movies), and more recently some Swedish crime thrillers. Sometimes I can barely tell they’ve been translated, because it’s so well done, but when I read The Unit for book club recently, it was definitely obvious in parts.

    I’ve gotten back into the sci-fi/fantasy genre lately, so I might check this out, but I think I’ll save it for a library pick!
    Kate recently posted…Short and Tweet Review of Witch & Wizard

    • Thanks! And I’ve heard that there are really good translations out there, so I’m going to start paying attention to which ones those are instead of just writing them off entirely, b/c this was still pretty good despite the language issues. And good on YOU for the horror. Man, I haven’t even watched The Ring (b/c CHICKEN), so I can’t imagine reading it.

      Good plan. These smaller Tor SFF books are spensive and they almost never go on sale. If I’m buying a spensive book, I like to be pretty darn sure I’m gonna LOVE it 😉

  14. I’d have to completely agree with you on the language issue, Jessica. Things are definitely lost in translation. I’m glad that Chasers of the Wind grew on you and the differences of translation didn’t bother you too much. I don’t read much of this sort of fantasy but it does sound intriguing. Nice review!

    • Thanks, Brandee! And yeah, the language thing is unfortunate. I don’t think I’d recommend this to anyone who isn’t a hardcore fantasy fan, b/c you need to already be invested in the genre to push through (IMO).

  15. Screw a toad? Well that’s definitely a new one. Learn something every day:) I couldn’t agree more with you on language, lost in translation is a very real thing when it comes to the nuances of characters and world, but I’m glad for the most part this was a solid read for you Jessica! Fabulous review as always:)

    • Thanks, Jenny! And yeah . . . sometimes it’s less fun to be proven correct than other times. BUT I got pretty good at tuning the bizarre stuff out after awhile. Except for House Strawberry. Couldn’t let that one go, LOL.

    • Screw a toad, Chanzie! Thanks, LOL. And that’s just one more awesome thing about kindles–the handy “search” feature. Punch it a word or phrase, and it will tell you how many times it appears in the book 😉 And I’ve heard that there are good translations out there (Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, the Stieg Larsson series). We’ll just have to be EXTRA picky, if we decide to go that route.

    • Dude. You aren’t kidding. But how cool of a job would that be? I always thought it was pretty awesome that that was Jeremy (Danvers)’s job before his paintings really took off. And I KNOW. I was just happy it only took 4 pages for it to happen, so at least the redundant descriptions of the impregnable fortress were short in duration. Still, it was a good read. You just have to stick with it.

  16. I totally think it was the translation that did it in. I can see it being a huge success in it’s native language, though. It kind of reminds me of Game of Thrones with the multiple POVs and adventures.

    It’s so cool you took a chance on it, though. That is one kick ass cover!!!! I think I’m bruised and beaten up from just looking at it!!!

    • Honestly, it was the cover that got me. This time it wasn’t a huge disappointment (thank goodness), but I still think it’s ridiculous that I’ll let a cover be the final determining factor on whether or not I’m going to read a book, LOL. I was like, “Whoa! That looks HARDCORE. I must have it.”

      And yeah, multiple POVs is the running standard with epic fantasy. So far that’s worked pretty well for me, but I have heard a lot of complaints about that with other fantasy series, so just like everything else—sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t 😉

  17. Ok I’m sorry houses named after fruit? That’s just weird lol. I struggle with fantasy due to all the silly naming of stuff, and this one sounds no different. But I think it is kind of unique being a translated work.
    Julie recently posted…Splintered Review

    • Yeah, fantasy can have some pretty weird (and unpronounceable) names, but I have to draw the line a House Strawberry. *still squinting and frowning* And as weird as those names can get, I think you’re right about that kind of weirdness being unique to translated works. Still, oddly enough, I liked it . . .

  18. Translated books I usually shy away from (even if books are primarily published in Spanish where I live) because I feel like they lose the meaning! I would’ve been hesitant about this book if it weren’t for your review (hahaha sorry for pressuring you xD), sounds pretty good. I might give it a try. Great review! 🙂
    Marianne recently posted…Review: My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal

    • It was pretty good, but I had to stick with it (I was probably 50%+ into it before I was well and truly hooked). And fair warning—those first pages are particularly hard to get through. I almost DNF-ed it right there, but I decided to keep going, b/c fantasy ALWAYS has multiple POVs, and maybe it was just that guy that I didn’t like. And that was a good call, b/c even though that guy was one of the MCs, those first few pages were the only ones told from his first-person POV. Thanks, Marianne!

  19. I know what you mean about those translation issues! I’m currently fan-translating a french version of this manga, and I keep cross-checking the Japanese one with a friend of mine, and I keep noticing that the Japanese version says this, and the French version says something completely different that’s way off-track what the original meant and it’s driving me NUTS!!! I always get afraid it would lead to more translation errors if I translate it from French, but I don’t really have a choice… I don’t understand Japanese D:

    In any case, I totally snorted at House Strawberry and Butterfly. I was thinking you were kidding with that, only to realize you were dead serious. O_O
    Faye recently posted…ARC Review: In The End by Demitria Lunetta – RANT ALERT!

    • Yeah, I get you. And I should probably have more sympathy for the translator, but it’s hard to remember that when I’m reading about fierce House Strawberry, LOL.

      NOT kidding. Screw a toad!

  20. You gave some good examples of translation issues. I think I’ve run into that sort of thing before. Because calling someone a something or other in one language doesn’t make the same sense in English. And the house name things sounds a bit bizarre. I think dialogue could get awkward with some things as well.
    I do love fantasy a lot but I have a million to catch up on already so I’ll be skipping this one for now.
    Candace recently posted…Adult Audiobook Review: Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep

    • Probably a good plan. I feel like this is definitely one that can wait. It’s fantasy, so there are sure to be more installments from which we can get a better feel for the series, AND this one ended in a cliffy. And bizarre translation names and dialogue issues aside, there’s a bit of redundancy that I can see as being distinctly translation related. Books a lot of times can repeat the same idea a couple of different times, but the wording is usually different as well. In this book, the sentiment is just repeated. Verbatim.

    • Yeah . . . even though I enjoyed this quite a bit, it’s a book that I’m only really recommending to readers who really love adult High Fantasy. If that’s you, and I somehow missed it/forgot/etc., then definitely, give this one a shot. But if you normally stick to YA fantasy . . . this might be a bit dense, and add to that the translations issues . . . I mean, yes, of course, if you want to read it, then read it, but I wanted to make sure I adequately disclaimed you first 😉