Wings of Ebony
- Author: J. Elle
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publication Date: January 26, 2021
- Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Series: Wings of Ebony #1
CONTENT WARNING: profanity, gun violence, death of a parent, grief, mention of substance abuse, mention of child neglect, murder, racism, racial slurs, reference to genocide
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am providing my honest opinion voluntarily.
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.
“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.
This is one of the 2021 debuts that I was really looking forward to, and I’m glad to say that it did not disappoint. You know when you start reading a book and know right away that it’s just going to be amazing? Yep. That’s what happened here.
It’s a crossover between urban fantasy, taking place in the hood of Houston, and fantasy, in Ghizon, which is an incredibly well-crafted world. The world building is done beautifully, with an entire caste-based society, history, language, magic system, and holidays/customs all described in such a clear and intriguing way. Just like any other society, Ghizon has a dark side to it as well, and involves discrimination.
J. Elle doesn’t shy away from portraying Rue’s Houston neighborhood realistically either, displaying both the good and the bad. While it’s clear that there is no trust between the people and law enforcement, media doesn’t show any interest in what happens to the residents of East Row, and the people living there are no strangers to drugs, violence, and death, the community is more than just neighbors — they’re family.
I loved the emotional impact this book had. Rue dealt with some heavy emotions throughout the entire story, but her feelings were all so realistic. She was dealing with grief, fear, anger, frustration, hurt, and loneliness. Rue is angry but channels it to create positive change for herself, her family, and her community, and even brings that change to wider circles. She faced an uphill battle, leaving a predominantly Black community that functioned as a supportive family after a traumatic event, and then being transported to a society where she’s basically an outcast and one of two Black people.
Rue wasn’t the only character who showed growth during the book. So many of the main characters had amazing growth arcs over the course of the story, and that wasn’t even the best part! The story itself was exciting, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. I was actually disappointed when I had to adult and put the book down, and would count the time down until I could start reading again. The author wasn’t afraid to discuss racism, empowerment, hate, social justice, family dynamics, and forgiveness, and I can only hope that the next book in this series come out soon, because I’m here for it!
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 14
Categories: Book Review