Saturday, April 2, 2011

Black Wings by Christina Henry - review

Christina Henry
This is a pretty cool cover - and the character even mentions her black jeans and black shirts, black boots and black wings in the story. Best of all, the black boots aren't the ever-present high-heeled boots, no these are practical soled boots. The overall atmosphere of the cover represents pretty well the book. I like how the title pops out in red against the almost monochrome colors, the blue tone to the cover and the casual way Maddy is holding that knife. Nice.
The story itself was an engaging story. Even so - there was a section in the beginning third where I almost set the book aside, and then again towards the last section...I was beginning to get bored...thankfully the story picked back up and the ending was a satisfying ending - very fantasy type and yet there's that little bit that leaves you knowing this woman's life is not going to be calm; she's got a lot of trouble still on her plate.
Black Wings started out very interesting, and humorous with the way Maddy's relationship with her boss is. Her character/narration voice was strong and enjoyable to read. She is an unpaid Agent - she collects souls at their time of death and escorts them to "the Door". She also owns a house with a couple of apartments and is renting out the empty apartment. An incredibly handsome man comes to apply for the apartment and right about the time he comes, so do some complications. Demons start showing up. Even though demons aren't supposed to exist, in a world where vampires and others do exist. For some reason, these people don't believe that demons exist. This wouldn't make sense to me, but it's the way these people think. Note here - even though there is a mention of other supernatural beings, none of them play in this novel. Not one. For this first novel, there are only the Agents, the humans that get escorted to the door and the demons. Not one vampire, werewolf, or faerie show up as a character...if there's a second book, it would be nice to see some of these other beings featured in the book, especially since two of the characters make a point of mentioning werewolves, vampires, ghosts and faeries.

The story is flowing along, and I'm enjoying it when suddenly I notice some words that to me, sound out of place. This is one of my weird little hangups in reading a book. I like when characters sound like your everyday average person...unless they are not - such as a professor, a genious computer geek, a centuries old vampire, etc. While this particular character started out sounding normal - suddenly I'm reading phrasing like this...' would have called 911 instantaneously' - instantaneously certainly isn't a rare word, but it's a fancy way saying right way...or even just saying 'would have called 911'; or ....'present myself with a blood free visage'-now that's word I would expect to see in an historical novel; there was also...'I would have bitten his head off, then partially masticated it, then handed it back to his flailing body'...."masticated" - how about just chewing it? Now this isn't a huge thing - certainly doesn't take anything away from the story itself, but it just doesn't fit for me, in a story set in contemporary times; with adventure and danger, demons and fighting, a character that's pretty much a loner and hasn't had any mention of going to university...and yes, it's probably silly for it to bother me, but it does; enough to take away from my reading enjoyment. Enough to frustrate me into setting the books aside, sometimes. Unless I'm reading a book set in more historical times or a formal setting, then using extra-fancy or unecessarily formal words for normal people who happen to have powers, or in the middle of suspenseful scenes is enough to pull me out of the story. In fact, I almost did quit reading this book. I decided to keep on, though and thankfully there were only a few more sections that had this out-of-place language. Out of place for me, anyway. I am very glad that this didn't go on for the whole novel, or I wouldn't have felt like finishing it, and I would have missed a good story and a kick ass death moment.

The story continues, and starts to pull me in again. There really are some interesting happenings. Maddy's main company in life is a gargoyle that's been with her for years, since before her mother died. In fact, the gargoyle is the protector of the house and warns Maddie of danger. The gargoyle is also her popcorn buddy. Maddie has this boss she can't stand (though she mentions how absolutely hot he is) , a gay friend - and I only point this out because it's mentioned that she took a job for him, so he could go on a date with a man he met....and yet Patrick himself hardly has any other mentions in the book, so don't expect lots of interaction between the two.

Demons keep showing up in places where Maddie is, she keeps getting attacked by them and is near death a few times -barely escaping due to sudden mysterious powers that seem to just appear just when she needs them the most. This isn't just a simple "powering" up, or convenient power increases - there's a reason for these various powers. Maddie keeps finding out about her own history which has something to do with fallen angels, angels and demons. Visions or dreams begin to appear when Maddy passes out. The relationships in the novel were interesting - Maddy does become interested in her new tenant, who has hidden depths to him; she's attracted to her boss physically yet can't stand his personality, and she doesn't seem to have any friends. There's a section where she mentions this loner tendency she has, possibly affecting the way she handles people and authority. (I get that, I can't stand anyone having any authority over me, and yet I love bossing others around - haha, go figure!)

There was one section in the book that seemed to crawl by for me....probably more so because I have three books waiting for me to open that I've been very antsy to read. This section that started to crawl for me consisted of lot's of conjecture and asking questions, good old fashioned "sleuthing" between Maddie, her gargoyle and her new tenant/friend/lust interest. I know a lot of people enjoy this type of reading, especially mystery readers, but I just get frustrated. (I'm beginning to think I just get frustrated fairly easily - maybe I do! Maybe I'm just turning into a frustrated, cranky old lady!) Thankfully, this section was short - then there was nice twist and things really picked up from there. Maddie, who all along has been having a real issue with controlling her new ever-expanding powers, survives a very tense situation...spoilerage is way too possible for me to go on here...but this section was very interesting. And the ending of Black Wings was something else - you know things will be okay for the meantime...but for how long is really in question. There are some questions and possiblities in place for a second book - (Black Night - already in the works, and probably more.)

In total, I enjoyed the book. Even with my issues with word and phrasing (I realize that I might be the only reader on the planet that lets this get to me, I certainly never hear anyone else mention this particular pet peeve), all in all, Black Wings was interesting enough to keep me reading and I'm pretty sure I'll be on the look out for the sequel.

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