Author: Astrid Yrigollen
Publication date: November 2012
Claren Maidstone has been forced to flee her childhood home after the death of her parents and a vicious assault from a sadistic young man who intends to marry her. Claren changes her identity and finds employment as an assistant to the handsome Fredrick Lowood, a generous yet mysterious benefactor. However, she soon finds out his generosity comes at a price. Fredrick wishes for Claren to befriend his disfigured son who resides in seclusion at their estate, Westwind.
Fredrick Lowood knows what the history books do not teach, that the Grand Council built this new world of peace and beauty on hidden blood and greed. He has plotted for years to bring down the family that enslaved his own people. Suddenly, he has the last living heir in his grasp.
Etrigan Lowood rejects the world that forces him to hide. He is powerful, plagued with a terrible dark beauty: WINGS. It is these wings that carry him out only at night to watch the unwanted intruder in his home. A creature of refined instinct yet little social grace, he is strangely captivated by Claren but knows nothing of how her family’s dark past is intertwined with his own . Through their blossoming friendship, Etrigan realizes he still retains his human heart and yearns for Claren’s love.
Kurten Wandsworth is the only son of the Mayor of St.Marhen. Kurten lives his life fueled by cruelty and lust. Whatever he wants he takes and he wants Claren to be his wife even it if kills her. Scarred by Claren he hunts her down mercilessly until he can set a trap which she will never be able to escape from.
His Black Wings is definitely one of the most creative retellings I've ever read. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales, and when I was offered the chance to read this book, I jumped at it!
Astrid Yrigollen has done a fantastic job weaving the elements of the classic fairy tale in a steampunk, futuristic Victorian setting. Sounds a bit strange, I know, but somehow Yrigollen makes it work. The actual story takes place in the future, but the mannerisms and dress of the characters are all reminiscent of the Victorian era. In short, Yrigollen has created a world that is completely unique and interesting.
I will say that the progression of this story was a little... fractured. There is constant switching of POVs between Claren's first person view and the omniscient narration of scenes between Etrigan and his father. Oh, and then there's a rather abrupt switch to Kurten's POV for a chapter. I feel like the flow of the story could have been better, especially when the world-building was finally explained; for 2/3 of the book, I had been full of questions on the origin of the Victorian steampunk world and, rather abruptly, the plot is just paused as the background info is thrust at you. It was nice to learn about the backstory, but the problem was that I felt bombarded by information. It was a lot to absorb in a short amount of time and could have been integrated into the story better.
There is a great cast of characters in this book, all of them bringing something different to the story. Claren was a good protagonist who was very brave and selfless. She came across as a Mary Sue at times, but considering the fact that she represents Belle, I cut her some slack. And then we have Etrigan. Ah Etrigan, I have such mixed feelings about you. On the one hand, I didn't like how possessive and, at time, rude he was. But on the other hand, he was the Beast, so this characterization was pretty spot-on. By the end of the novel, though, I did end up liking him. And I liked him and Claren together.
Something that I really loved about this book was how interesting the secondary characters were. They all had a distinct personality that kept the story interesting. From the hilarious rivalry between Horace and Dekker to the dark nature of Kurten Wandsworth, I was enraptured and entertained. I might even go so far as to say that the secondary characters were my favorites!
On a side note, I found it a bit hard to really connect with the characters. Personally, I really like being able to connect with characters, to get inside their heads; it makes the reading experience more enjoyable. With His Black Wings, even when I was reading from Claren's first person POV, I felt rather detached, as if I were seeing the story unfold from afar as opposed to being in the middle of the action. I think this is really a personal preference, though. I'm sure some people prefer this style of narration since it's similar to reading a fairy tale.
Rating: 4 stars*
All in all: Despite my little critiques in the review, I really did enjoy this book! It's a really cool and unique twist on the Beauty and the Beast story. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys retellings, or fairy tales in general. Or Victorian-era books. Or just someone who's looking for something new and refreshing in a world where so many ideas are overused.
*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review