Agents of death, gargoyle guardians and fallen angels? Black Wings sold me from the start, but to find out that all three also have the tendency to munch in their nervousness? Yes! It’s clear Christina Henry is a woman after my own heart. And for the fast-paced, nonstop action in Black Wings, I’m willing to relinquish it.
According to Publishers Weekly: Madeline Black is getting fed up. Her job is to coax newly dead Chicagoans to the Door to the afterlife. But what if they don’t want to go? Her supervisor, J.B., won’t accept any excuses. Maddy also desperately needs a roommate to split the bills. When the beautiful Gabriel Angeloscuro (the name a rare clunker on Henry’s part)* comes to look at the apartment, Maddy invites him in–and thereby welcomes a host of disasters. Enigmatic Gabriel holds the key to the mysteries of Maddy’s past, including the murder of her mother. Emotionally battered, confused, and scared, Maddy is above all determined to find the truth. Henry shows that she is up to the challenge of debuting in a crowded genre. The extensive background of her imaginative world is well integrated with the action-packed plot, and the satisfying conclusion leaves the reader primed for the next installment.
And I am. Ready for the next installment, I mean. But first let’s take a look at the first one.
Style: Henry’s style is definitely one that a reader would want more of. She delivers scenes of travesty with as much honesty as she delivers scenes or humor with a wit that is tireless. The rhythm of her writing carries the reader effortlessly from chapter to chapter, which makes the book a challenge to set down (even if one is at a little sister’s championship performance—but I swear, I did put it down to cat-call and clap like a looney). The most commendable quality, however, is that I never got tired as a reader. Her scenes and the entire book as a whole had a harmony that made every page more enjoyable than the last. In general, it seems to wear on the mind to watch a main character get batted around like a cat toy, but with Henry’s deliverance, I was only rooting for Maddy to get back up. And she did. Because she’s a bad-ass. Which brings us to character.
Character/s: Black Wings is full to bursting with characters and each one of them is so distinct, it’s impossible to not want to know more about each one—even the bad guys. Something I appreciated was that every character has more to them than first perceived; every character has a separate, important history and the depiction of each history is revealed so naturally, only lending to the excellent story-telling.
Our main character Maddy is a real person, who forgets to eat and throws back popcorn like the rest of us when we’re rushing out. Of course, she has to share more than half of her popcorn with her gargoyle guard Beezle—a lovable grumpster charged by her mother to watch her and guard their home. But even he can’t keep her safe from the chaos that begins to build around her. Not that Maddy needs anyone to hold her hand. She’s a capable heroine, not willing to let anyone take away her right to do just as she pleases—as much as she can, anyway.
Plot: Mystery and discovery serve as integral elements throughout the story. Henry’s balance between the two keeps the reader absorbed, carried along throughout a unique story with twists that aren’t even close to foreseeable. That in itself was so refreshing that the novel was automatically added to my favorite list. To have such a distinctive plot in a genre that grows increasingly crowded is highly commendable. And enjoyable.
Setting: Based in Chicago, Black Wings’ settings are intricate and imaginative. It’s great fun to see the punk mecca of certain corners in Chicago mash up with the hell of the underworld. Henry portrays the grittiness of the Chicago streets as effortlessly as she takes the reader to lands unknown. Courts of fallen angels are as tangible as the cluttered offices of the Agency of death and that’s one more reason why the book was such a great read.
Such a great read that I give it an A+, 100 to be exact.
Ready for your own copy? Check out the store on ChristinaHenry.net here!
*Sorry, but I have to disagree with Publisher’s Weekly. Gabriel is the son of an angel and a nephilim. I think he deserves a pretty epic name.