I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I picked up Christina Henry’s Black Wings. I knew I wanted an urban fantasy novel to read, but the blurb was, IMHO, kind of vague (what is it with vague blurbs on a first in series novel??). Again I was mostly pleasantly surprised when I finished Black Wings.
As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black is responsible for escorting the souls of the dearly departed to the afterlife. It’s a 24/7 job with a lousy benefits package.
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…
Henry does a good job of the shock and awe value with what Maddy can really do. It seemed that once Gabriel arrived on scene there are surprises around every corner. Gabriel is not a demon, but he knows much more about what is going on with Maddy and with all these demons than he originally leads on. Then there’s the issue of Maddy, her latent but now manifesting powers…oh and her lineage. Maddy’s lineage has made her a target, persons who are against not only her father, but her grandfather, seek to harm/kill her, including her unknown half-brother. All of these unknowns are revealed during the course of Black Wings and with each new demonic encounter, Maddy learns of another power she possesses. Maddy is no ordinary Agent…her heritage is about as powerful as one can get in the world Henry has created. For those who have read Kristina Douglas’ Fallen series (Raziel), you’ll see some similarities in plot as far as players and the spin on the old angel/demon…Heaven/Hell story arc; but, don’t let this deter you. Henry creates a world all her own, and while there are some similarities to Douglas’ story arc, they’re not all that much alike.
One of my favorite things with the Black Wings series is Beezle. Beezle is a popcorn and hot chocolate loving gargoyle. I loved him. He’s Maddy’s watchdog of sorts. His duty is to guard the dwelling where Maddy resides and to look over her…a task given to Beezle by Maddy’s mother, whom Beezle loved and was loyal. He is snarky and at times mysterious.
One thing I didn’t like was some lack in world building. References are made to werewolves, faeries, vampires (Maddy says she has escorted souls of these “creatures” to the Door as an Agent) but is this world one where humans are aware of the supernatural or not? Some events led me to believe that perhaps humans may be unaware of the supernatural, but it isn’t clear. I just felt I was “dropped” into the world Henry created with no real explanation and I’m supposed to accept certain information without any development. I felt a little bit like Maddy did when she first met her father in her father’s court, there are all these rules that just are, but no one ever bothered to tell me about. I’m hoping to learn more about this world in the sequel Black Night. I do enjoy this twist on the Heaven/Hell arc and fallen angels and am looking forward to reading more…hey who can resist some pretty wings? ;)
Black Howl (2012)