by Christina Henry
Cover Artist: Kris Keller
Review by Meagen Voss
Ace Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441019632
Date: 30 November 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
At first glance, Black Wings by Christina Henry (ACE Fantasy) appears to be a standard issue fantasy romance involving a female hero who has the enviable problem of having way too many attractive men in her life, a tall, dark stranger with a secret and a few demons that are thrown in to spice things up. But if you’re looking for supernatural smut, you best look elsewhere. With tight prose and wit, Henry crafted a thrilling adventure that takes readers from the streets of Chicago to the courts of Hell and leaves them wanting more.
The story is centered on Madeline Black, a thirty-year-old woman who juggles freelance food writing and odd jobs with her supernatural gig as an Agent of Death. At the beginning, Henry provides a glimpse of Maddy’s life as an Agent. When she is not collecting souls of the recently deceased or testing a new pear tart recipe, she is filing paperwork or enduring abuse from her micromanaging boss, the infuriating (yet deliciously attractive) J.B. Bennett. Of course, the chaos in Maddy’s life exponentially increases when a handsome man named Gabriel Angeloscuro shows up to rent an apartment in Maddy’s building. Next thing we know, demons are on the loose in her front yard and Maddy is scrambling to stop a monster that is spilling blood all over Chicago. As she fights to save all that she loves, Maddy is forced to face uncomfortable truths about her family, her powers, and her gorgeous new tenant.
What truly makes Black Wings enjoyable is the interactions between the characters. Henry employs a number of tried and true elements in her characters (Gabriel, the hot man with a mysterious past, need I say more?), but Henry always adds a little unique flair that keeps you hooked, regardless of whatever crazy situation her characters get themselves into. Maddy is also an appealing and sympathetic heroine. She is a smart, independent woman who is not afraid to speak her mind whether it’s to her boss or to a blood-thirsty creature that could snap her in two. At the same time, she is vulnerable, confused, and makes more mistakes than she would care to admit. By comparison, the men in the story come across a little flat, and they tend to be little more than a convenient rescue squad when Maddy gets herself in tight situations. Maddy gets rescued a few too many times in this story, but Henry makes it very clear that Black Wings is the beginning of a series, so it’s understandable that she wants to leave room for Maddy, and the other characters, to grow.
Readers who would enjoy a supernatural version of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series are guaranteed to enjoy this book. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer would also like the story even though vampires barely get a mention in this installment. The book would also be appealing to readers who like stories that explore different views of Death such as the manga/anime series Bleach or Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy. Henry’s style might be a bit too fluffy and fast-paced for readers who enjoy stories with long, epic journeys and a Tolkienese level of detail. But no matter what you enjoy, by the end of this book you’ll be glad that your family is not as crazy as Maddy’s and you’ll want a pet gargoyle too.