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.