This blog post is part of the WINGS OF EBONY tour hosted by Caffeine Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Wings of Ebony by J. Elle is an urban fantasy novel that takes place in the neighborhood of East Row and the magical land of Ghizon. It follows our protagonist Rue, a Black girl from the hood who simply wants to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death after she was swept away by her birth father and made to live in another land. Leaving Ghizon is forbidden, and touching humans is also forbidden, so of course Rue does both at the beginning of the book, and this sets off an intense series of events that force her to come into her own or watch those she loves die around her. With onyx fused to her wrists, a father she resents for leaving and also for saving her, and darker skin than the rest of Ghizon residents, Rue has no desire to be somewhere she’s obviously not wanted, but when the place she’s always called home is being targeted by a ruthless element, she’s trapped between decisions she doesn’t want to have to make. Rue is content with keeping her sister safe and keeping her head down, but it seems the universe has other plans for her.
From the beginning of the novel, Rue’s voice was so clear, distinct, and unwavering. It felt as if I had a friend recounting a wild story to me that was infused with their personality while also making complete and total sense. I appreciated how J. Elle didn’t compromise on the use and frequency of the slang throughout the novel, making it commonplace and a natural part of the dialogue and prose. Rue’s voice has an authentic and robust feel to it that makes you just want to be her friend immediately because you know she’d be there no matter what, which is a persistent theme throughout the novel.
While some Fantasy books feel the need to take us all the way back to the beginning or chronicle our protagonist discovering magic, that doesn’t happen in Wings of Ebony, and it allows for the novel to start off with and continue at a gripping pace that’s neither too fast nor too slow. When we meet Rue, it’s been one year since the death of her mother, and she’s in search for her sister Tasha. We find out through Rue’s inner monologue and a series of flashbacks that, after the murder of their mother, Rue’s father suddenly pops back up into her life and whisks her away to Ghizon, leaving her sister Tasha behind. Rue has left Ghizon, after not seeing her sister for over a year, and she’s already privy to magic and how to work her own. It is clear from the beginning of the book that Rue has incredibly negative feelings towards magic, Ghizon, and her father Aasim, which sets the reader up to want to know why that is and how Rue came to have these feelings. There are a few flashbacks that offer context and give insight to the months after the death of her mother, but it is clear from the jump that this is a story about a girl steadfast in trying to protect her little sister. There’s family, loyalty, and sisterhood at the center of this novel, and it’s incredible.
The relationship between Rue and her father Aasim was a relationship I had wanted more out of. While it is always great to see a sticky and complicated relationship between a child and their parent play out throughout a novel, I was satisfied (if not shocked) when the two of them come to an understanding. Because we never get full moments with Rue’s mother, the only active parent interaction throughout the novel is with Aasim and with Rue’s neighbor Ms. Leola, who acts a a grandparent figure to the local youth.
My favorite part of Wings of Ebony is Rue’s development and growth as a person. At the beginning of her journey, she’s the strong willed and protective protagonist who would risk her life to protect the ones she loved, no matter the cost, as long as she paid that cost alone. At the end of the novel, she’s still the same strong-willed and protective protagonist, but she’s realized that she doesn’t have to do everything alone. Rue realizes that it is okay to ask for her, okay to ask for backup, and okay to regroup to make smarter moves. I found this to be incredibly relatable, especially for Black girls who are conditioned to feel as if they need to be tough and bear the weight of the world on their shoulders without any reprieve. Rue also shows moments of simply wanting to be cared for, and I found that so so so important as well. Oftentimes, Black girls are not allowed the space for vulnerability, as it’s seen as being weak; Rue is proof that it is indeed possible to both be vulnerable and strong at the same time.
In Book 2, I’m looking forward to the expansion of the potential romance plot. There were quite a few seeds sprinkled in this first installation of the series, but they didn’t take over the story, so I’m excited to see where Rue’s romance takes her. I also appreciated that the love interests actually had value and purpose within the plot besides just being potential romantic endeavors. I’m also looking forward to hopefully getting a lot more backstory about Ghizon because I found that world to be so intriguing.
I’m really glad I got a chance to read Wings of Ebony by J. Elle, and I’m excited to hear about when the sequel will be gracing the universe!
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