Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.Wings of Ebony (Wings of Ebony #1) by J. Elle
Published by Denene Millner Books on January 26, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult Fiction
Format: eBook (368 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads • Bookhype
In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry and must save both the human and god 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.
Proceed With Caution:
This book contains death, grief, blood, violence, drugs, a use of the n-word, racism, and colonization.
Wings of Ebony is narrated by seventeen-year-old Rue, a girl from Houston who was swept away to a magical island after her mother’s murder. Now, a year later, Rue is back in Houston to reunite with her sister but things do not go according to plan. She breaks the first rule of Ghizoni, never touch a human, in order to save her sister’s life. From there, it’s a matter of keeping her sister safe from magical and human threats, all while trying to get a handle on her own magic.
Wings of Ebony felt like a story already in progress, making it confusing and feeling incomplete. It took me over half of the book to settle in and feel like I had a handle on what was going on, but also, not really. The first several chapters were just confusing since we have no idea about where Rue has been and why. She’s just “back” home watching out for her little sister with vague mentions of magic and Patrols and other stuff. It isn’t until well over half-way in that any of this makes sense.
The world-building in Wings of Ebony is bad. There’s a split between Rue’s neighborhood in Houston and her life in magical Ghizon. Obviously, Houston is a more familiar place. It’s real. It felt real. But Ghizon was just kind of this idea. It’s an island, somewhere, near Africa, maybe, hidden by…magic? All of the people are white…or actually grey because of reasons. They’re magical, but not really. How does one even get to this mysterious hidden island? Rue gets there and back multiple times, but how?
Also, there’s this matter of “sorting” and being “bound” which are also just glossed over. The binding part made more sense by the end because there’s a twist, but I still didn’t fully understand. As for “sorting,” there are essentially two castes. One all work in the onyx mines, the other is everybody else. Yep, quite simple. But why is it that way? How are you chosen? Why just those two groups? And apparently this society has only been around for sixty years, so pretty new, and yet no one has any questions until Rue? And why is every single person except Rue’s father grey? Well, that one is brought up at the mid-point, kind of.
The magic system itself doesn’t make sense. The people are bound and get magic from the Chancellor (or something along those lines) and then they learn spells, but they don’t actually need spells, but they do need spells. What exactly does their magic do? I couldn’t tell you. Then there’s the matter of Rue not wanting anything to do with her father or magic when he first comes for her, but the moment her magic is gone she’s crying that she wants it back, because…magic is actually pretty darn handy! How bout that.
I also didn’t believe Rue’s friendship with Bri. We get one flashback chapter of when Rue was first brought to Ghizon and is understandably not happy to be there. She meets Bri, who is somewhat of an outcast, I guess. She’s a nerd. But Rue latches to her right away when she finds out that Bri is super smart and builds awesome contraptions and is a hacker and all that. In fact, the only times we see them interacting is when Rue needs some magical technology that Bri can make for her. Or when Rue needs to explain oppression and colonization to a white person. Basically, Bri is the token white friend and technical mastermind, not a real friend. And don’t even get me started on her boyfriend. Or on Rue’s random love interest that comes out of nowhere.
The plot of Wings of Ebony could have been interesting if it weren’t for the lackluster world-building. Rue’s worlds collide when she uncovers that the increased gang activity is linked to Ghizon. Obviously, I can’t say more than that because spoilers. It’s a cool idea. But once again, it just didn’t make sense given the little we know about Ghizon. Instead, the villain gives a detailed monologue about why he did what he did and I was like Ummm okay….? Not to mention that the other villain is still on the run, so this felt like it just ended with no resolution. Yes, I know it’s the first in the series, but this installment felt like the first part of a longer book rather than the first book of a series.
I’m just disappointed in Wings of Ebony. I was hoping for something unique and exciting, but what I got was just messy.