Book Review: Wings of Ebony (Wings of Ebony #1)

Published January 26th 2021

Author: J. Elle

“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.

Wings of Ebony is the first novel in a fantasy duology of the same name. The story follows a black teen named Rue, who is half-human and half-God. When Rue’s mother is murdered in Houston, she goes to Ghizon, an isolated Wakandan-inspired island filled with magic where her long-lost father lives. As she and her father are the only two black people in Ghizon, the white residents do not fully accept them and do not want them in their world. Even though it is against the rules, she returns to the Houston neighborhood of East Row on the anniversary of her mother’s death to end up in a complicated situation involving her sister, Tasha. Soon Rue starts to see her two worlds come together as a new mysterious plot unfolds.

As the main protagonist, Rue was a fantastic character. She reads well as a teenager, who is clever yet stubborn and determined. Her story begins in the middle with flashbacks to give the background to her character. Through this type of story-telling, the reader is able to see how far Rue has already come and the potential for additional growth/development in the future.  As the action is already in motion when the novel starts, it took a little while to fully start putting the pieces together; however, everything did come together nicely by the end and the story was nicely set up for the sequel.

This story gives an amazing exploration of race within each setting and also into gang violence. A lot of the elements of the story do ring true for many real events, which could come across as too political and/or real for some readers where it would not be considered a true escape read like many other fantasy novels. For me, I thought these points were well integrated. Both East Row and Ghizon were well-described where they both came across as real places, which was unexpected for the fantasy-filled Ghizon.  Both places were displayed with both their good points and their flaws and it was enjoyable to not have the author shy away from the negatives about the settings. As for the romance(s), there is a sort of love triangle with a childhood friend and an insta-love stranger. Both needed a little more work for me, but I assume this plot point will be further developed and I can connect to it more in the sequel.

Overall, the story does wrap up some storylines while leaving enough open for the sequel and I cannot wait to read it. There are many characters introduced in this story, so at times they were hard to fully distinguish. They were enjoyable and I loved Rue’s interaction with them. The magic system of Ghizon was also an element that I wanted a little more exploration from as it had a lot of potentials. The story shines a lot when it comes to a black protagonist in a white-dominated society where the latter thinks they are above the former. Wings of Ebony was definitely a great debut novel and I cannot wait to read the sequel, Ashes of Gold soon!

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