“Besides, look at you. I’m supposed to believe you’re an Agent of death? You’re covered in flour.”
“I was in the middle of making a pear tart dotted with gorgonzola. You’re an unscheduled call.”
That’s on page 3 of Black Wings, and that’s when I knew I was going to enjoy the heck out of Christina Henry’s voice.
The flour-covered Agent is Madeline Black, whose job it is to collect the souls of the newly dead and escort them to the Door that leads to the afterlife. She lives in a two-flat building inherited from her mother, with only her gargoyle Beezle for company. (I see I’m not the only one who saw Unico as a kid!) Being an Agent is a bit of a drag, even leaving aside the death aspect. Madeline has an anal-retentive boss to deal with, and even worse, it’s not a paying gig. So, Madeline decides to rent the lower flat in her building to mysterious, gorgeous Gabriel Angeloscuro, even though Beezle emphatically does not approve.
Shortly after Gabriel’s arrival, all hell breaks loose in Madeline’s life. She is attacked by grotesque creatures, starts having visions, and learns she has a role to play in a millennia-old conflict involving fallen angels. Maddy discovers a secret heritage and new powers, kicks some butt, mouths off a lot, and catches the eye of a couple of hot paranormal guys (including the aforementioned Gabriel). I don’t want to say too much more and risk spoiling anything; it’s way more fun to discover the twists on your own!
Henry’s writing style and her characterization of Madeline set Black Wings apart from the urban fantasy crowd. Madeline is hilarious when she’s being snarky, and incredibly “real” and relatable when she’s hurting. One of the best moments is when Madeline takes a moment to remember a tragedy that occurred in the early pages of the book. Madeline reflects on how the events of the last few days hadn’t given her time to mourn, and how she doesn’t even feel like the same person who experienced that loss, and it’s such a perfectly drawn and poignant look at what she’s going through.
Henry proves equally skilled with a more lyrical prose style; this is most evident in the vision scenes but shows up at other points as well. The more elevated style gives these sections a tragic grandeur that suits the fallen-angel theme.
I read Black Wings in one day, and I loved spending that time with Madeline (and Beezle). I recommend Christina Henry to readers who enjoy the dark humor of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series and the demon politics of Stacia Kane’s Megan Chase series.