Book Title: Wings of Ebony
Author: J Elle
Genre/Subgenre: Urban Fantasy/Fantasy/YA
Theme: Self-discovery and self-acceptance
The Nitty Gritty: Rue is trapped between two worlds and must overcome prejudice and multiple obstacles to come to terms with her identity and protect the ones she loves from the evil that threatens them all.
Ideal Audience: YA and adult readers who love fantasy, especially urban fantasy.
Strengths: J. Elle offers a rich protagonist. Rue is relatable and flawed, but she’s also determined and dedicated to her family. This makes it easy to root for her as she tries to piece together what’s threatening her community and her father’s world.
Hot Take: Wings of Ebony didn’t disappoint me for a second. J. Elle starts with action and she has a knack for weaving in backstory and descriptions without letting the story lag. All the crucial elements are woven together as the plot progresses. Character motivations are clear. Like Rue, we’re trying to figure out who’s threatening Rue’s community, as well as what’s going on in her father’s homeland. Rue’s sometimes impulsive, but she has a big heart and is willing to risk herself for the people she loves. There were times I was biting my nails and squirming in my seat as I held my breath, wondering how Rue was going to get out of another jam, and the tension kept me turning the pages, waiting to see how things would unfold.
One of the themes within this story is the value of new leadership. While it’s important to preserve ancient wisdom and appropriate customs, Rue defies the rules to save the people she loves, and in the process she shows her people in both worlds that they don’t have to accept the status quo if it isn’t working.
While Wings of Ebony has strong fantasy elements, part of the story is rooted in the real world. One of the wonderful things about that setting is that it feels like J. Elle has poured all her love for her own community into Rue. Instead of looking on her neighborhood as a broken place she wants to escape from, Rue looks at her community as an unpolished gem. She sees all the beauty and potential, and she capitalizes on the strengths of her community when she fights the evil that threatens them. Several years ago, I worked in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood and a lot of people laughed at me when I told them that, because it had a bad reputation, but I loved it. There was a sense of family there that I didn’t experience anywhere else that I worked in the city. Reading Wings of Ebony reminded me of that.
J. Elle doesn’t shy away from very real issues, either. Rue confronts racism in both worlds, and the story effectively shows how racism allows problems to persist in society. I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s one scene when Rue confronts someone with the truth. And that person has a hard time hearing the truth. Rue doesn’t feel obligated to compromise or soften the truth, even if it means losing a friend. She knows that she isn’t responsible for other people’s problems. Her priority is always doing right by her people, and she holds to that.
I love Rue. I can only imagine what a wonderful world we’d live in if everyone had a bestie like her.
Oh, and #teamJhamal
Book Score: 5 stars
Cover Score: 5 stars
Trigger Warnings: racism, police brutality