When we think of Death as a character, we think of a dark being who steals lives, snatching souls from bodies and cutting away the strings of life. In Wings of Darkness, Asher (The Angel of Death) isn’t like that being though, and we discover that in the very first scene, when he saves Isabel, a feisty teenage girl, from a fate worse than death: becoming an immortal sorrow as her lost spirit wonders the Earth. Of course, nothing is ever that simple, though is it? As Asher binds her soul to her body, so he binds himself to her and when Death is bound to a mortal, things are bound to get exciting, right?
Absolutely right! This book was about as exciting as they get. The prologue entrapped me at once, although I was lucky to read it – the Kindle automatically opened at the first chapter, skipping the prologue, and if it wasn’t for my slightly obsessive desire to skip back and start at the actual cover, I would have missed the prologue completely. Silly Amazon and their seemingly arbitrary starting points but if you are a Kindle reader and unaware that material is sometimes missed in this way, take heed!
This book was recommended to me by a friend, but I was a little wary at first: YA fantasy, feisty teenage girl, immortal/mortal romance, and so on. It’s been done to death (no pun intended), hasn’t it? Well, yes, it has but that doesn’t make it necessarily bad, and it certainly doesn’t make each of its incarnations the same. There are clichés here, there are the usual tropes you’d find, a few stereotypes too. Isabel herself is one of these, in fact. Teenage girl, not popular but not particular unpopular either, one really good friend, Gwen – the tough one with the sassy mouth. Isabel is cool and quirky, strong-willed, more powerful than she knows and of course more beautiful too. That could describe any heroine of YA fantasy, couldn’t it? Despite that though, I can’t deny that by the end of the book, Izzy had become a real person to me. I went on her journey with her, and it captured me, even if her initial scenes were almost groan-worthily clichéd.
Not all of the characters were stock-ish either. Okay, so Asher as Death is dark, brooding, and handsome (as well as being millennia old – I’ve always found the age gap in these books a little odd) – if that isn’t a trope, I don’t know what is. But on top of that, Wingler has created a character who is different. Asher is a gentle and loving death, he cares about the passing of souls. Grim (Asher’s brother and seeming wingman), too, was a character I fell in love with, what with his ‘cheeky-chappy’ nature and quick mouth (in fact, if I had to pick one to be entangled in an immortal bind with, I’d probably pick Grim over Asher).
The other character that needs mentioning is Fate. The way that Wingler has handled Fate in this book is something I’ve never seen before, and she really got me thinking about fate in real terms. Is there fate? Should we fight against it? Can we fight against is? Is fate good or evil, or perhaps entirely neutral? And where does that leave free will? In fact, the book is peppered with philosophical nuggets, hiding away deep within the pleasant narrative. Like this one: “Humans were given free will, but as a species they are violent and lazy. They do far more harm than good. They are the greatest pestilence the world has ever known.” Or how about this one? “No death is ever black or white, good or evil. There are always shades of grey.”
The story is fast-paced (once it gets going), and it had me fully engaged. As I sat in the bath this afternoon reading the end of the book in rather cold and slightly stagnant water (I couldn’t get out until I’d finished, you see), I found my jaw dropping and my eyes popping with the action-packed crescendo to the novel. As I clicked away from the last page, I bought the second in the series immediately and that in itself should tell you all you need to know.
There are some massive clichés in this book, and it’s undeniable that the basic premise has been extremely popular in recent years, meaning that books like this one do not stand out as unique or different. It’s true that some of the characters are a little stock-characterish and the story begins a little slowly (with the exception of the prologue). Despite all that though, I am exhausted today because I stayed up half the night reading, and I’m a little chilly from sitting in a cold bath as Isabel and Asher’s tale grabbed me by the throat and kept me reading until I came to the end of their journey. The book is full of lovely descriptions, the story is action-packed, and the characters are emotive. There is even a bit of philosophy thrown in, and for all that, I can forgive the odd cliché!
Check out my interview with Sherri A. Wingler tomorrow, and stay tuned for my review of book 2!