Book Reviews

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle: ARC Book Review

This is a spoiler-free review.

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

Expected publication January 26th, 2021 by Denene Millner Books.

My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

Thank you to the publisher, Denene Millner Books/Simon Schuster Canada, and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Wings of Ebony tells the story of Rue, a Black teen from Houston, who also happens to be half-god. When her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, Rue learns of her absent father’s heritage – and why he’s been forced to stay away. Soon, and against her will, she’s taken to the magically hidden island of Ghazan, where she’s given the gift of magic, but restricted from ever returning to where she grew up, East Row.

But with the anniversary of her mother’s death approaching, Rue can’t help wanting to go back to her old neighbourhood and check up on her little half-sister, Tasha. So, she and her Ghazani friend, Bree, develop the means for her to leave the island undetected… But things quickly spiral out of control when Rue is forced to save her sister’s life in a near-fatal accident.

Soon Rue learns her two worlds, that of East Row and Ghazan, are not so disconnected after all.

“Moms raised a diamond. And diamonds don’t crack.”

Before even picking this book up I had HIGH expectations. With a premise that awesome and a cover THAT gorgeous? It’s hard not to.

And let me tell you, wow, did it ever surpass them!

Firstly, I LOVED how this story began right in the middle of the action. A lot of times fantasy books rely heavily on a lot of exposition at the beginning of the story, which is understandable, but can also make it hard to really get into the book early on. Wings of Ebony thrives by breaking this mold.

(Though I will say, because you’re not given a lot of background information going into things – especially if you’re the type of reader who prefers to not read the synopsis! – it can be confusing a bit at first, but it quickly becomes apparent exactly what’s going on.)

Similarly, another thing I really appreciated about the way this story unraveled was how instances in Rue’s past weren’t revealed until they were relevant to understand what was happening to her in the present. Rue’s tale relies heavily on flashbacks, and by trimming the exposition down to only the bare necessities needed to grasp the intricate world of Ghazan and it’s magical system, Elle manages to aptly balance the important moments from Rue’s past with the rising action in the present.

Really, there’s just a lot to love about this novel. Rue is such a powerful, strong, brave character, who genuinely reads like a real teenager. The plot is quick-paced, action-packed, and very relevant. Wings of Ebony manages to feel both deeply grounded in reality and utterly fantastical. Rue’s story is touching and inspiring, and just such an enjoyable read. One that really resonates, long after you’ve finished it.

What’s your favorite YA fantasy/adventure novel?

Let me know!

Liza is a twenty-something book blogger who spends way too much time with her nose in books and feels way too much. She loves cooking, baking, reality tv show watching and, of course, reading. She can be found most often with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other. Her blog, Literary Liza, features bookish content like reviews, recommendations, and author interviews.

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