Black Night: Enough to keep me interested

fantasy book reviews Christina Henry Black WingsBlack Night by Christina Henry

I devoured Christina Henry’s Black Wings in one day. The sequel, Black Night, took me several weeks to read. I think the problem is the absence or near-absence of two of the most striking characteristics of Black Wings: the dark humor stemming from Madeline Black’s job as an Agent of Death, and the epic Storm Constantine-esque beauty of the flashbacks involving Maddy’s ancestor, Evangeline.

Maddy’s job is much less prominent in the story this time around, and there are no scenes from ancient times. Instead, the plot is closer to the usual urban fantasy fare. Maddy is caught at the intersection of fae, werewolf, and demon politics. She has three potential love interests (Team J.B., if you’re wondering) and has become extremely powerful magically. She rarely listens to advice, yet usually turns out to be right anyway. It feels like a plot I’ve seen before — and it feels like a plot that would work just as well if a different heroine were plugged into it.

There’s plenty of action, though, and there’s still humor, much of it to be found in the interactions between Maddy and her gargoyle Beezle. I was especially tickled by their conversation about a menacing swamp monster: “Is it all squishy and tentacly?”

Then, Black Night improves markedly as it heads into the final stretch. Maddy is sent into a nightmarish labyrinth where she confronts all of her deepest fears, and begins to show a strength of spirit to match her magical strength. The aftermath is heartrending in a pensive sort of way, and then Henry throws a few curveballs that I did not see coming at all. The last few chapters are terrific.

It’s not quite enough to make Black Night a spectacular read for me overall, but it’s enough to keep me interested in the series. Some of this book’s events will have lasting ramifications in Maddy’s life, and I look forward to seeing how they will play out.

Black Wings — (2010-2014) Publisher: 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…

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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