of wings and wolves
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“Some have said that angels possess the innocence and heartlessness of childhood for eternity.”

This quote from Sara Reine’s Of Wings and Wolves touched, exactly, on why I have never really gotten into the ‘Angel’ urban fantasy novels that are nearly as popular as vampire novels. Angels, by their very being, have never struck me as capable of being anything other than heartless. The preternatural creations of an omnipotent, uncaring god, all powerful, and yet removed from any sense of mortality or human “morality”.

I remember, from long ago, reading something to the effect that (and I won’t get this perfectly – it is an old memory) “God no longer listens – “he” is too narcissistic, too enamored with his own reflection in the mirror, lost in the worship of his followers”. (And if anyone can help me with where that quote comes from, I would be forever grateful. It has driven me mad for years.)

As a result of these feelings, I was somewhat hesitant to accept Ms. Reine’s request that I read her book and contribute a review. However, I decided that, no matter my problems with the concept of Angelic interaction, I would give it a shot. And I am not in any way unhappy that I did. I am always glad to be proven wrong in my prejudices, and Sara does a fairly good job of it.

This is an unusual novel. From the beginning, she pulls away your suppositions, leading you in directions both unexpected and curious. The main character and her twin are apparently normal young people, living in a ‘fairy tale’ cottage in the woods with their grandmother. But all is not what it seems. For one, Summer is, apparently, the sole were in the world. A world that becomes more strange and complex as times goes along. Enter a dark and mysterious stranger (yes, with buckets of money and looks to die for – well, would we love a urban fantasy male lead who wasn’t the uber total of all our own most hidden and closely held fantasies? I certainly wouldn’t be all that interested in a 5’6” pudgy, zitty geek with halitosis. I can get over it.)

With the entry of the stranger Nashriel, Summer’s life begins to change and flow, turning into something she no longer comprehends. A world of bitter pain. The story moves smoothly, well written, with a tight storyline that, in urban fantasy terms, doesn’t stretch the imagination. Rather, it flows into an area that is not often explored in UF in a way that is highly believable in many ways. The story is a good set-up for further novels, not overreaching in it’s tone or leaving you with a cliff hanger that is ultimately dissatisfying.

As with many of the novels of the genre, the romance of the story is extremely rushed – but that is to be expected in many ways. With romances and UF, the main characters seem to have that whole ‘love at first sight’ thing going on, which I always have difficulty with. I much prefer the romantic elements of authors such as Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series and Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock. The personal relationships take time to grow and develop, something that is missing in this book.

In my opinion, the love at first sight thing was uncomfortable for me on several different level. That whole “innocence and heartlessness” thing, in my mind, precludes this type of ‘immediate love connection’. In the words of another author, whom I immediately identified with, which referred to the thought processes of an Aspergers Syndrome victim (Carolyn McCray/Ben Hopkin “9th Circle’) “She found a baby bird that fell out of the nest. You helped her put it back, while I kept walking.” In a way, Nashriel is very much an angel in this – the pain of others is not, when you are viewing those around you on the scale of an entity who has existed since the beginning of time, worth notice. And the situation of an entity such as Nashriel, especially in the situation he finds himself, makes me question, deeply, the underlying meaning of the connection. Meh. That’s just me.

All in all, Summer is a strong new female lead, and takes the various body blows she is given, one after the other, picking herself up, dusting herself off, and going forward. She doesn’t let herself fall into the whole “I’m a Victorian heroine who needs a big, strong man to rescue me, even though I have teeth and claws and can whip you deadly” sort of female lead that certain other, who shall not be named, authors fall into. One thing that I look forward to in the next books is watching Summer grow and develop into her strengths, learning about who she is and what she can do to succeed in her new life.

This novel pinged on some of my aggravations, but all in all, the story begins well, takes a new twist on its UF legacy, and has overall promise. Something happens at the end that I hope doesn’t drag down into ‘typicality’ of the genre, but I am more than happy to preorder the next installment – and go searching for Sara’s other works to learn more about her writing. All in all, I am quite pleased that Sara asked for my opinion, and hope to follow through with other reviews on my on dime.

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