The Wind Singer by William Nicholson
In The Wind Singer, by William Nicholson, legends are sometimes true, and schools may teach lies.
Kestrel Hath did not know this when she mouthed off to her teacher and was sent to the back of the room. As soon as they could, Kestrel and her twin brother, Bowman, cut class. This was Kestrel's idea. She was the one to do things. Bowman, on the other hand, could feel things. He felt his sister's anger, and he felt others’ loneliness. So they left the Orange district and headed to the central arena, where the wind singer stood.
Stretching out from the central arena were the concentric rings of neighborhoods. The Grey District lay furthest away. Here were huge apartment blocks filled with the people who kept the streets of Aramanth clean and performed other lesser duties. Next came Maroon District, a bit better with terraced apartments. After that was Orange-- this was Kestrel's home district. Not as bright as Scarlet, the next level up, but neither as dull as Maroon, and this was just. It was understood, for everyone had an equal chance of moving forward to achieve a better life.
In Aramanth, constant public examinations are at the heart of civilization. The tests begin at age two and never stop. A family's place depends on how well the father does at the tests, but each child's rank contributes to the family's rating. The central arena was in the White District, home to the city leaders and the Emperor himself. After the ratings system was introduced there was no longer any need to use the amphitheater for debates and elections.
Kestrel Hath loved the wind singer though it no longer sent chords of music through the land. Its key had gone missing long ago, but Kestrel loved it anyway. She came to a stop at the foot of the wind singer, knowing that this day, filled as she was with rage, she must do something or explode. Kestrel Hath began to climb.
The Wind Singer is Book One in the Wind on Fire Trilogy.