Happy Monday, everyone! This Monday is slightly better than usual since this week is a four day week. How is your week looking so far? Got any big plans this week? Anyway, I’m procrastinating a bit since I’m a little nervous to post this review. But here goes.
“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.
Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.
Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground. (from Goodreads)
Ok, first I just want to point out how beautiful this cover is. Seriously, it’s so pretty! Between the description and the cover, I was really looking forward to this one! I even got a signed copy in a book box. So, to sum it up, I really wanted to like this one. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disappointment for me. However, let’s talk about what I did like first.
The Pros: I thought the Ghizoni world was really interesting. A hidden island? A secret history? Fascinating! I did wish it had been more elaborated on, but this is the first book in the series, so I’m not too worried about it. I found what was included really interesting and unique, and I think the author has a lot of room for growth in the fantasy.
I also really enjoyed the representation. The author does a great job of making us empathize with Rue as a member of a minority; not just as an African American in Houston but also as a black half-human in Ghizon. I do wish more of Rue’s lifestyle and culture would have been shown. We had brief mentions of a few details, but I think there is still room for more detail about Ghizoni culture and Rue’s culture and lifestyle on her block.
I also loved the emphasis on family in Wings of Ebony. Rue is a heroine I have mixed feelings about, but I did appreciate her passionate love and protectiveness for her younger sister. There is also a strong sense of community present, which I thought was awesome.
The Cons: Firstly, the sequence of events in Wings of Ebony is really weird. It starts a year after some major events in Rue’s life (the death of her mother and her removal to Ghizon), and the story of her start in Ghizon and her first year there is told in a series of flashbacks. I understand that the author was trying to start us off with action, but I don’t really understand why the timeline was done how it was. I think starting when Rue’s mother died and she moved to Ghizon would have made more sense and eliminated the slightly confusing (and sometimes unnecessary, in my opinion) flashbacks. Anyway, the odd timeline made it kind of difficult for me to connect with Rue at first.
Another thing that bothered me, and this may be a totally personal pet peeve, was the writing style of dialogue and narration. Rue is from the hood (her terminology), and she and the people who live on her block speak in a very specific way. This in itself didn’t bother me, obviously, but the way it was written felt odd. Like text speech or something I’d read in a wattpad story. There were a bunch of purposefully misspelled words, which I felt was kind of unnecessary to represent their speech patterns. The writing just felt a little unpolished for a published novel. I could have lived with it, though, if it had been consistent and confined to dialogue. However, it was pretty inconsistently done, and it kept bleeding into the narrative. The story is first person, and told from Rue’s point of view, so I guess the narrative that sounded like her dialogue was supposed to be her thoughts, and the more typically written narrative was just narrative. But the distinction was never very clear or consistent, and it felt very all over the place to me. The inconsistency bothered me more than the lack of polish, but I do think the dialogue could have been written in a style that read more smoothly.
Finally, and again, this may be a personal pet peeve of mine, but I really didn’t appreciate the stong political agenda in Wings of Ebony. I felt at times that it was more of a Black Lives Matter speech than a natural part of the story. All of the villains are white people, and there is not a single blameless white person in the book. There wasn’t a black villain, and there are constant, and not very subtle, references to the prejudice of authority and racism of white people in law enforcement. There is a very clear, heavy-handed political message, and honestly, I read fantasy fiction to get AWAY from politics. Regardless of if I agree or not, I really don’t appreciate such clear agendas in fantasy fiction. It takes away from the plot and character development, in my opinion, and really distracts me from the story. Maybe not everyone feels this way, but I was disappointed that I picked up a book for the fantasy and plots and ended up constantly distracted by the politics of the author.
Wings of Ebony was fairly clean. Very little religious content or sexual content. No LGBT content and minor, but consistent, language.
I thought the premise of Wings of Ebony was really neat, and I enjoyed the representation. The fantasy was also pretty unique, and I loved the family and community values. I did not appreciate the lack of consistency in the narrative styles, the odd timing, or the heavy political agenda. So I’m giving this one 2.5 stars. It was just so-so for me.
Well, that was a lot, lol. I’m bummed I didn’t enjoy this one more! But it was a debut, so I shouldn’t be too harsh. Have you read this one? What did you think? How do you feel about political messages in fantasy books?
Hope your week is beginning well!