fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Christina Henry Black WingsBlack Wings by Christina Henry

“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 AndrewsKate Daniels series and the demon politics of Stacia Kane’s Megan Chase series.

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

    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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