Reviews

Black Wings Beating, by Alex London

thenerdybookfairy's review

Go to review page

4.0

Black Wings Beating is heartbreaking. A tragic story - on so many levels. Yes, there are moments of redemption, compassion, and hope, but there is just so much sad that it rips you open as you reach them. Black Wings Beating is the classic "hero's journey" with a quest, adventure, tragedy, death, victory, villains, heroes, and the beginnings of self discovery (with 2 more books in the series to go, I'm assuming the self discovery will be complete by the end). It is an emotional roller coaster ride, and one well worth taking!

Kylee and Brysen are brother and sister - twins, who could not be more different in personality, temperament, and talents. They live in the Six Villages, which is a fiefdom of sorts, ruled by powerful "kyrgs" and overseen by the Council of Forty, who rule from the Sky Castle. Most of the people living in the Six Villages are Uztari - a race of people who are enamored with birds. The Uztari capture birds, train them, and use them to hunt, pass messages, and as symbols of power and prestige. The more elusive and/or dangerous a bird of prey is, the more esteemed the person who owns it. Pigeon racing, falconry, the buying and selling of birds, and fighting with birds in the "battle pits" are all part of the daily life of the Uztari.

Kylee & Brysen's father is Uztari. He is a gambler who verbally and physically abused Brysen, and who wanted to use Kylee to help further his own grandiose dreams and delusions. He captured and trained birds of prey in order to sell them in the marketplace, but due to his gambling and drinking, he racked up so much debt that, after he died, Kylee and Brysen were forced to continue operating this business in order to pay them off.

Their mother is a submissive, ineffectual, essentially absent parent. She is of Altari descent. The Altari religious cults have reverence for the wild, the sky, and birds. They believe the Uztari are sinners, and they consider the owning, selling, capturing, and training of birds to be blasphemy. Their mother spends her days praying for her children to stop engaging in these practices.

Kylee hated being forced into the family business. She wants nothing to do with it, and eagerly looks forward to the day that they are able to pay off their father's debt and she will be free to close down the business - not because she believes, as her mother does, that the business is sinful, but because she has no interest in it. Kylee has a natural talent for working with birds, and has a rare gift that she tries to suppress and keep secret - it is a gift she doesn't quite understand and is afraid of, and she knows that if others knew about it, they would try and use her for their purposes.

Kylee has never felt truly understood: "her father had thought she was withholding her talents out of stubbornness; Brysen was jealous of her; and her mother thought they were blasphemy. Everyone looked at her and saw what they wanted for themselves." Yet, Kylee doesn't really fully understand herself either. While she has friends, she is somewhat indifferent to relationships, and seems emotionally closed off - except when it comes to Brysen. She has a strong love and depth of feeling and connection with him.

Brysen, on the other hand, loves falconry. He is pretty good at capturing birds and training them, though not as good as Kylee. His main responsibility is feeding and caring for the birds, getting them ready to sell in the market. While he wants the family debt to be paid off, he is not as concerned and focused on it as his sister. He is also not in a rush to close the business.

Brysen is a dreamer, a romantic, and emotional. Where Kylee is level-headed, responsible, and goal oriented, Brysen is impulsive and reckless. Where Kylee is more guarded with her feelings, Brysen is open and wears his emotions on his sleeve. While Brysen loves his sister, he also harbors a resentment against her, as he believes Kylee was favored by their father because she was never beaten. He also believes that Kylee was not there for him when he needed her to get away from their abusive father. He compares himself to Kylee and feels he falls short.

This is the most heartbreaking and tragic part of the book - the fractured relationship between brother and sister due to false assumptions, defensiveness, secrets, omissions, and poor communication. Having been told endlessly by his father that he is worthless, Brysen has internalized that message. "Self loathing wasn't a solitary hunter. It formed a flock with every unkind thought it could find, and then, like crows, they mobbed." Brysen seemed to look for things - consciously or unconsciously - that reinforced his feelings of worthlessness, all the while outwardly displaying bravado, and convincing himself he is destined for great things.

Brysen is driven to prove himself as a valuable human being, and he chases the approval of others - particularly the approval and attentions of the boy he is in love with, Dymian. When it comes to Dymian, Brysen is particularly impulsive and reckless. He fights in the battle pits with his bird, Shara, to impress Dymian, and any others who might witness his victories. Dymian is a narcissistic grifter who was disinherited by his family and exiled due to his gambling and other behaviors. Dymian, unsurprinsgly, toys with and manipulates Brysen to his advantage, but Brysen refuses to see it, as he is head over heels in love with him.

Dymian, who is in debt, tells Brysen that one of the most dangerous kyrgs in Uztari, Goryn Tamir, is going to kill him if he doesn't pay off his debt to him immediately. Dymian tells Brysen that he promised to capture the most rare and sought after raptor in the nation - the legendary Ghost Eagle - and bring it to Goryn in order to clear his debt. Goryn's men, however, have beaten Dymian, making him unable to go after the bird. Brysen, fearful for the life of his lover, volunteers to capture the Ghost Eagle for him.

Intertwined with that story is political intrigue. The Kartami - a hard line, religious zealot sect that believe birds carry sin so they want to annihilate them, as well as the Uztari who tame them - have declared war. They are attacking all the heathen villages on their path to the Sky Castle, slaughtering everyone on the way. There are spies, alliances, and subterfuge galore, and you don't know who you can trust. As a reader, you're not sure who you're supposed to like, who to hate, who to root for, and who to hope fails. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? It is not always easy to tell, as nobody is completely innocent or free of baggage.

Black Wings Beating draws you in immediately, and keeps you reading to the end. There is a lot to unpack in this novel, and my description here just scratches the surface. I couldn't put it down, and I look forward to the next book in the trilogy!

To Buy Black Wings Beating Click Here:





nervybooks's review

Go to review page

2.0

Personalmente me fue muy difícil conectar con el libro hasta el momento de la aventura central que nos da la historia. Brysen me fastidió porque no sentí motivos suficientes al arriesgarse por su amor, era inconsistente e indeciso. En cambio, los personajes de Kylee y Jowyn se me hicieron buenos por el poder de decisión, meditación e intuición por los distintos casos que se les presentaba a lo largo de la historia. El mundo que nos muestran se me hizo muy auténtico, este sentido de espiritualidad y respeto hacia las aves se me hizo súper original.

bookwyrmed's review

Go to review page

4.0

For whatever reason it took me a bit to really get into this book, but it was definitely worth it. This had a lot of the elements of YA fantasy that I enjoy, and a take on many of them that felt fresh and exciting. I also love how magic in this world is SO very fairytale/folklore. It's not clearly defined, it's BIZARRE, and yet it still makes a sense that isn't maybe logically trackable but *feels* right.

thereadingrainbow's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

readingrobin's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous emotional mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

Definitely a middle of the road kind of book, where there wasn't anything that made me regret picking it up, nor did it wow me. The worldbuilding is a bit sparse, though looking ahead to future installments in the series, I see that more things get developed so naturally I think this book is just meant to get all the introductory concepts established. It has a fairly good pace, never lagging or rushing through any development.

Kylee's an engaging lead character, determined, loyal, and willing to do anything to protect her brother. Sometimes it feels a little too self sacrificial, though I'm a little biased since I wasn't the biggest fan of Brysen. I know his whole issue was that he felt useless and couldn't do anything but....he would be right. He's incredibly rash, impulsive, frustrating, shortsighted, and really doesn't see how his actions affect anyone around him, all of this just culminating into a really unlikable character. He's never outright malicious, but seeing him make wrong decision after wrong decision, leaving everyone to clean up after his mess gets tiring. I can only hope that he improves as the series goes on. Honestly, I'm interested in seeing how his relationship with Jowyn develops, so I guess this series has something for me to come back to.

On that note, Jowyn was probably the highlight of the book for me, just for being a weird little dude and I like that.


Expand filter menu Content Warnings

aster_isk_m's review

Go to review page

I was really intrigued by the concept of falconry in a fantasy novel, but I just couldn't bring myself to care about the characters. Reading other reviews I think I can see that what I don't like about the protagonists is not likely to change in the course of the book. Also, there was a lot of confusing worldbuilding within one single book, it was hard to keep track of all the parties and religious cults and so on...

myfictionaloasis's review

Go to review page

4.0

This was such a captivating book, and a great opening to a fantasy series. Even for someone who isn't a huge fantasy fan, it was easy to get lost in this book. The world is described in great detail, but it did take me a little bit to fully understand it all. The politics were a little confusing as well, but otherwise, it was a very intriguing fantasy world! The book also has a split perspective, which if you know me, you know automatically makes me love a book. The characters were a bit frustrating, but they were definitely well-written.

Disclaimer: I received a gifted copy of this book from Pride Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

bookyogi's review

Go to review page

2.0

I don’t have too much to say about this one. I guess I just never got into it; there was no hook in the story nor interesting characters to attach to so I just got through it. I see some love this story and it came highly recommended by an author I love so perhaps I have missed something, but for me, this is where the story will end.

caseythecanadianlesbrarian's review

Go to review page

4.0

3.5 Stars! This is a dark, fascinating YA fantasy that didn't quite meet my (admittedly high) expectations. I loved the world-building of this dangerous place on the brink of war that revolves around falconry and birds of prey as status and commerce. It felt completely new and unique as far as a fantasy world goes. None of the usual dwarves and elves, etc., although there is an epic quest! Who doesn't love an epic quest.

One of my favourite things about this book was the writing. I was impressed with how London seamlessly integrated the mentality and mythology of the world he created both in the language the characters use and in the language used to tell the story. Some beautiful metaphors and sayings involving birds and falconry were scattered throughout the book, but never in a way that felt unnatural or like London was trying too hard.

I loved Kylee, one of the two main characters. She has a special ability to speak the ancient language of birds, but it's a gift she's always resisted since falconry has been tainted for her by her abusive father. She's tough, smart, compassionate, and complex. I've seen some readers reading her as ace, which I definitely saw, as well as aromantic. I wish the book had been more explicit about this, and that it hadn't had people who apparently know her well nudging her to reciprocate the feelings of a boy who likes her. This felt especially odd considering the world didn't seem to have homophobia (another point on its own which is very cool! I love when SF/F chooses to do that!). I hope her identities are explored more and affirmed in further books. (This is the first of a series).

Her brother Brysen, the other main character, though, I have to admit I kind of disliked. I had a hard time connecting with him and resented how his actions negatively affected Kylee. He's selfish, reckless, impulsive, and wracked with jealousy over Kylee's abilities, all qualities that lead to a relationship with his sister where she's constantly making up for his shortcomings, fixing his mistakes, and protecting him. I would have really preferred a sibling dynamic where their strengths and weaknesses could have balanced each other, instead of having this lopsided situation where the girl is given all the responsibility of making sure their expedition is a success while her brother thoughtlessly chases glory and the love of a guy who is clearly a douchebag. It just felt a little too... familiar in the patriarchal way.

I mean, I'm all for gay characters not having to live up to some impossible standard of goodness. I also appreciate how the story doesn't focus on Brysen's queerness at all, although his bad taste in guys in one of his flaws that propels the plot forward. And I understand that many of his negative qualities can be connected to having borne the brunt of his father's horrific physical abuse. However, London chooses to construct the character with that background and my feeling sick at the abuse on Brysen's behalf didn't endear him to me as a character. I'm not sure giving a character that kind of intense childhood trauma is a good way to redeem him in the eyes of readers. Maybe that wasn't what London was doing?

Not being able to empathize with one of the two main characters definitely put damper in my enthusiasm for the book at times. Overall though: a very exciting new addition to queer YA that I mostly very much enjoyed.

Content warnings: some fairly graphic (for a YA) violence and suicide ideation

bibliophilicrichard's review

Go to review page

adventurous challenging dark emotional informative mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? N/A
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5