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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Born of Wind by J.B. Lesel is the first book in the Of the Elements series. Meleena would rather go on her own adventures and evade the bullies than attend classes. There’s so much to explore in her aquatic world, and she learns more from her own curiosity, so when she gets a place on the Council Apprenticeship team, she’s genuinely shocked. She will embark on an exploration of the other Nations with students Deem and Talla, the bully, which could cause more conflict. Meleena’s curiosity lands her into trouble when she’s drawn into the middle of a civil war among the Warix, which has dire and oppressive consequences for her people. Meleena takes it upon herself to search for the weapon that both sides of the conflict seek and hopes that she can end the war and save her people when she finds it.
J.B. Lesel explores serious themes in this lighthearted journey set against the backdrop of an aquatic world. Meleena has a natural curiosity about her that drives her actions and draws beauty from how she sees the world around her. She finds true wonder in everything around her, from the muul’dre’s behavior to learning about rock lobsters. Meleena’s natural curiosity is one of her most vital assets and catches the attention of the Warix. At the same time, her adventurous spirit takes her on a quest for an ancient weapon that could be the key to saving her people. The sudden partnership she has with Deem and Talla gives her unexpected allies to share the weight of this responsibility to end a civil war and free their own people from oppressive circumstances. The partnership creates a unique situation for Meleena as Talla is the one that has been bullying her with insults and the nickname Smell-eena. This sets up a built-in conflict between them, but their people’s greater need helps them to overcome these issues and for Talla to grow as a character. Her other partner Deem is more serene, raised on his family’s farm, and has big dreams for the underwater community.
The setting draws inspiration from mermaids with a nation full of aquatic creatures. J.B. Lesel brings the beauty of water to life through stunning imagery, and the backdrop sets up Meleena’s world and creates a contrast against the nation of the Warix, which is wind-based. Their civil war is directly causing harm to Meleena’s people through exploitation and oppressive means, which creates a contrast between the two nations. Born of Wind is an action-packed adventure rooted in curiosity and a journey to bring unity to two conflicting sides with timely themes of war, bullying, and oppression.