I read this fantasy novel about 10-15 years ago. I know I read it in french, possibly in the original, but it might be a translation, and in that case probably from english, but maybe some third language.

It is about a world where the wind is always present. Sometimes it is moderate, but often there are very strong tempests. Only a zone of small extension perpendicular to the wind is free of ice. Along the wind, it extends between the bottom of a huge, vertical, impassable cliff downwind, near which most people live, and the far upwind unknown. The people have a low technology and some magical powers, but not very strong. They have a strange ethics, sending groups of people to march upwind to find "the origin of the wind".

Now they do have a faster means of transport, using wind as its motrice force, just like a sailboat can go upwind by tacking. I forgot if they are wind-propelled flying machines, or wheeled ones or sleighs. But their ethics forbids to use them to help the marchers. In fact I think the marchers despise the people using these machines, and the latter are not themselves interested in going further upwind, as they don't see the point to go deliberately into very dangerous areas. At best they bring to the marchers news up- and down-wind, not more.

The novel follows such a group of marchers, formed of very specialised individuals, each with his, or her, own limited magical power, in its upwind progression. On the way, one after another of the group dies, or is left with the survivors of earlier groups who had given up on their quest and settled in a not-too-inhospitable region. The POV character is always one of the group, and changes on each chapter. At the end only one character keeps going, and finds the end of the world: the top of a huge vertical cliff. He somehow makes a magic parachute and jumps, almost killing himself in the process. When he recovers consciousness, he finds out that he is at the bottom of the downwind cliff : these people had never realised before that they were living on a spherical world, and he has just achieved going all around it for the very first time.

1 Answer 1


This is La Horde du Contrevent (Lit. The Horde of the Counterwind), a novel by French author Alain Damasio.

Imaginez une Terre poncée, avec en son centre une bande de cinq mille kilomètres de large et sur ses franges un miroir de glace à peine rayable, inhabité. Imaginez qu’un vent féroce en rince la surface. Que les villages qui s’y sont accrochés, avec leurs maisons en goutte d’eau, les chars à voile qui la strient, les airpailleurs debout en plein flot, tous résistent. Imaginez qu’en Extrême-Aval ait été formé un bloc d’élite d’une vingtaine d’enfants aptes à remonter au cran, rafale en gueule, leur vie durant, le vent jusqu’à sa source, à ce jour jamais atteinte : l’Extrême-Amont.

Mon nom est Sov Strochnis, scribe. Mon nom est Caracole le troubadour et Oroshi Melicerte, aéromaître. Je m’appelle aussi Golgoth, traceur de la Horde, Arval l’éclaireur et parfois même Larco lorsque je braconne l’azur à la cage volante. Ensemble, nous formons la Horde du Contrevent. Il en a existé trente-trois en huit siècles, toutes infructueuses. Je vous parle au nom de la trente-quatrième : sans doute l’ultime.

[Imagine a sanded Earth, with a strip five thousand kilometers wide at its center and a barely scratchable, uninhabited mirror of ice on its fringes. Imagine a fierce wind rinsing the surface. Let the villages which have clung to it, with their teardrop houses, the sand yachts that streak it, the air washers standing in the flood, all resist. Imagine that in the Far Downstream, an elite block of twenty children was formed, able to rise to the next level, gust in mouth, their life lasting, the wind to its source, never reached to date: the Far Upstream.

My name is Sov Strochnis, scribe. My name is Caracole the troubadour and Oroshi Melicerte, aeromaster. My name is also Golgoth, Tracer of the Horde, Arval the Scout, and sometimes even Larco when I poach the Azure with the Flying Cage. Together, we form the Horde of the Contravent. There have been thirty-three in eight centuries, all of them unsuccessful. I speak to you on behalf of the thirty-fourth: arguably the ultimate.]


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