Black Wings by Christina Henry

Black Wings (Black Wings, Book 1)

Sometimes, a novel catches your interest for the grand, sweeping plotlines and heroic characters.  Sometimes, it’s the simpler touches that draw you in.  A well placed bit of setting or a unique secondary character can make a book stand out.  Black Wings offers a good story, but it also has plenty of small things that contribute to the book’s charm.

(Description nicked from B&

“Escorting souls into the afterlife leaves Maddy little time for socializing-until devilishly handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in her building. But when demons start appearing on Maddy’s front lawn, she realizes there’s more to her new tenant than meets the eye.”

While the concept of an “afterlife bureaucracy” is certainly nothing new, I liked the details that Henry brought into her story.  I especially liked how souls don’t have to “go into the light” just because a collector comes for them.  They have the choice to refuse and become a wandering ghost.  It reminded me a bit of scenes that Terry Pratchett has written for his character Death.  It’s something that can lead to moments that are either humorous or touching, given the circumstances.

I will say, however, that I didn’t get as much of this scenario as I wanted.  The other major plotline—Maddy finding out about her past and her parentage—eclipses Maddy’s job quite a bit.  In and of itself, this is an interesting bit of storytelling.  It draws heavily on the mythology of fallen angels and the presence of demons in the world.  It just doesn’t mesh very well with the supernatural collection agency.  They do have common elements, but I think that balancing the amount of page time that each was given would have strengthened the book.

Maddy is a main character that I’d describe as slightly quirky.  In her free time, she writes a cooking column, which was something that I didn’t expect.  It’s a really good hook for a character, and it’s something else that I wish had been explored more.  It’s unusual to find a character that has an aspect of their personality outside of the main storyline, and it’s even more unusual for whatever it is to be shown at any length.  I like to get to know characters as people, with all of their little foibles, so I wish I’d gotten that opportunity.

And speaking of getting to know characters, one of the most entertaining in this book is Beezle, a gargoyle who protects Maddy and her house.  He’s cranky, smart-mouthed, and he loves to eat.  He almost takes the title of most well developed character in the book, and he’s definitely more fleshed out than the major male character, Gabriel.  I’d like the male lead to get a bit more depth, but I’ll settle for having a wise-cracking sidekick to chuckle over.

Black Wings is a promising start to a series.  It has a lot of elements to work with, so now we’ll just have to wait and see if the author decides to play with them a bit more.  I found enough to like in this book to want to continue with the series and see what happens next.

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on May 31, 2012.

Series: Black Wings
ISBN: 9780441019632
Publisher: Ace
Page Count: 304
Publication Date: November 30, 2010
Acquired: Personal purchase
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