Travis Bow has spent a long time crafting the world of Soulwinder.
I can say that without hesitation because a quick Goodreads search told me that five years ago he published a short story version of this text titled “The Three”.
I can also say that because this world feels lived in.
There is nuance to the intricate society he has created for his characters that just doesn’t come from an ill-conceived, or rapidly written novel. There are human details, pieces of personality and quirks of nature that only form when an author has lived with his characters for a long time.
Travis Bow has spent a long time on Soulwinder and that time, that care, sings in every line.
Alternating perspective between three young characters with three distinct statuses within the intricate strata of Anselin society, Soulwinder unfolds slowly as a tale of deception and steady descent into desperation in all its forms.
Whether the chapter centers on Tel, scraping for survival with his mute father on the edges of society, Noro hiding in plain sight as a servant to the lofty denizens of the Magistry, or Kadana fighting her way through the ranks of young warriors in the highest echelons of Anselin’s political class, our three leads each offer different facets of the rich and lyrical world Bow has created for them, and the unique joys, triumphs, heartbreaks, and complications that come with those differences.
To tell much more would risk spoiling this epic saga of a novel and I’m not willing to do that because this really is a story that’s best savored fresh.
Suffice to say, the magic system Bow has crafted is beautiful, the characters he has written are compelling, and the society they inhabit is flawed in the most fascinating ways.
Whether he chooses to dip back into the world of Anselin for a second installment, or leaves this as a near-perfect single foray into this world remains to be seen, Soulwinder has obviously been a long time coming for Bow, and I can attest that it was well worth the wait.