Featured Review: Wings of Ebony (J. Elle)
About This Book:
In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry--and with evil sinking its claws into humans and gods alike, she'll have to unearth the magic of her true identity to save both her worlds. Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games. The entire first printing of this novel will be signed!
"Make a way out of no way" is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue's taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon--a hidden island of magic wielders.
Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother's death, Rue breaks Ghizon's sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother's life.
Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon--an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors' power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.
*Review Contributed by Olivia Farr, Staff Reviewer*
WINGS OF EBONY is a beautifully crafted YA fantasy. A year has passed since Rue's life was irrevocably changed. Her mother died, and before her funeral could even take place, Rue was swept away by the father she never knew to Ghizon, a secret land where magic rules. In this place, Rue feels like a prisoner and is shocked by her outsider view of their customs, including worship of a sketchy guy known as the Chancellor, distribution of living conditions, and the crude binding to magic that is somehow seen as a good thing. One thing is for sure, Rue does not understand why she cannot see her younger sister or use her magic to protect her sister and their fam - the people she grew up with in East Row.
When Rue risks all the rules to see her little sister in the human world on the one-year anniversary of their mother's death, she must decide between following the rules and breaking them to save her sister's life - a choice that is not really a choice at all. When she does so, events unravel before her that lead her on an unexpected journey of self-discovery and a quest for truth, with the fate of Ghizon and East Row hanging in the balance.
What I loved: This world is so unique, and I found it so intriguing with the magic and culture. The parallels to our world are clear and important throughout. When Rue digs deeper and sees what all the Ghizoni have been ignoring, she is sure to find the ugly truths buried, not unlike our own history. There are some really poignant scenes around this reveal, Rue's self-realizations, and those of her friends, particularly Bri. I won't say too much to avoid spoilers, but there are a few conversations that are so eye-opening with critical implications for the parallel ways that white people can react to Black truths with important take-home messages.
The themes include family (including found family), loyalty, and allyship/racism. I found these to all be really thought-provoking in the way that they come across, and they would be great for a book group to discuss. Rue's love for her sister is so string and important, and I really loved it. In terms of the magic, the abilities wound up being less significant than the how and the morality of it all (as one example of many, that Rue does not understand why it cannot be used to help others vs. hoarded). These were really well-crafted as well as the ways that socioeconomic classes can define a future (in the magic realm people are divided somewhat arbitrarily, but mostly based on family lineage, into their future career/socioeconomic class, regardless of their ability).
Final verdict: A strong YA fantasy with important themes, WINGS OF EBONY is a series to follow. Highly recommend for fans of BLACK PANTHER, A BLADE SO BLACK, and LEGENDBORN.
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