Saturday, December 11, 2010

Black Wings by Christina Henry

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Maddy's position may come with magical powers and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn't pay the bills. And then there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.   Things start looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy's building. It's probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos. Powers that place her directly between the light of Heaven and the fires of Hell...

And here's what I thought:  I figured I'd be in for a good read when I read the line on the cover: "She's an agent of death who really needs to get a life."   Right off, I had a "Dead Like Me" moment.   I had read good reviews of this book, and was also intrigued because I knew it was set in Chicago (yay!).  I was also hoping this book would pull me out of the small reading slump I seem to have fallen into....   and it did!!

Written in first-person, the reader experiences everything in the story through Maddy.  While this might irritate some readers, I actually don't mind it, because it gives me insight into the character, and keeps the story consistent.   Maddy's a fairly normal person in that she's got a tricky job, not much of a social life, and has some family issues.  What you quickly realize, however, is that her job is to escort souls to The Door (think Dead Like Me....  although, of course, if you don't know what that is, it's ok -- Maddy basically reaps souls after death), her social life is somewhat constrained by her job, and, oh yeah, her mother's dead and her father... well, her father's got quite a story.   When Gabriel shows up to rent an apartment, it seems like there's more to him that meets the eye -- and then the story really takes off.  

The pace in this story is pretty quick, which is expected, considering all that's going on.  But, I didn't have any problems keeping track of what was happening, or felt like there were parts that lagged.  Maddy's an interesting character; she's smart, and has a snarky kind of wit that I really like, but she's got some issues, as well.  I liked that she wasn't perfect, and even would admit that she didn't always know what to do, or what was going on.   For instance, it turns out that she has some magical abilities, but she doesn't know how to control them -- so she has to learn what to do.  "I never realized just how little self-control I had.  My loner lifestyle had left me at a disadvantage.  I'd never had to control my temper for the sake of another person, or keep my cool under pressure in a job.  For all intents and purposes I had the emotional control of a three-year-old."  (p. 248).   Really interesting -- and something that I think many people might relate to, even if they aren't an Agent of Death.

Extra bonus points for setting this in Chicago (I live in the Chicago area, and previously lived in several Chicago neighborhoods).  I got a kick out of Mady visiting Clark & Belmont, and mentioning The Alley (I did get my black leather motorcycle jacket there years ago....).  The author lives in Chicago, and so her descriptions, places, etc are spot-on (which is nice, considering that sometimes, authors can set stories in places they know nothing about).    And, extra bonus points for giving Maddie a cool little sidekick:  Beezle, who's a gargoyle (I mean, how COOL is that??).

In conclusion, if you like urban fantasy, and you're looking for something a bit different, you might like this book.   I tend to read a fair amount of urban fantasy, so I enjoyed that there was a bit of a different twist in this one.  I enjoyed the story and characters, and the book had a quick pace that made it a fast read.  

First sentence:  "I hate it when a soul goes all stubborn on me."

Thoughts on the cover: Nice illustration, with a hint of wings, and darkness.  The one quibble I have is that the way the character is described (physically) doesn't seem to match the illustration as well as I'd like.   However, this is such a small thing; overall, matches the story pretty well.


Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

Awesome review, Jo! I love that you review books I've never heard of before because it changes things up for me! I'm adding this to my list :)

Unknown said...

I do enjoy mixing it up. Indeed a wonderful review.

Please do stop by... Beautiful Creatures/Darkness feature started today and will last through the week.

Mad Scientist

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