A guest review by Jenre
Anyar, a black-winged young guard, could only be accused of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He captures the attention of a commanding, beautiful white-winged prince of the enemy, Vanyae, and is swept away into the conflict between their peoples.
Vanyae takes the incredible, black-winged beauty from his home and all he knows to a place of submission, of slavery. And though Anyar vows never to give in and despairs of his freedom, Vanyae finds pleasure in his body and his spirit.
Even while the battle rages, Vanyae starts to realize that his black-winged bird is much more than a slave to him…
Isn’t that Anne Cain cover gorgeous? I could look at it for hours.
How you view this book is going to depend very much on your views about dubious consent. The story involves young soldier, Anyar, who is captured and taken as a sexual slave to the prince, Vanyae. There are several sex scenes in the book which depict Anyar’s body enjoying the experience, but in his mind he is being taken against his will. It certainly treads a very fine line between rape and dub con, so fine in fact, that even I was a little uncomfortable and dub con doesn’t usually bother me.
Despite this, there was much to enjoy about this novella. First and foremost was the depiction of the fantasy elements, especially the wings. All the characters have wings and I have to admit I was a little sceptical about this at first and wasn’t sure whether I would be able to relate to a character who had wings. I shouldn’t have worried because this aspect was dealt with with such sympathy and understanding that I couldn’t help marvelling at how right the characters seemed with wings after a while. This mainly happened through the characterisation: Anyar and Vanyae are from opposing countries and this is even reflected in their physical differences. Anyar has large wings, whereas Vanyae’s wings are smaller, giving him the advantage of speed, a difference which becomes important later in the book. What also worked well was the way that the wings are linked strongly to identity, especially with Anyar. Anyar has black wings which are seen as unusual in his country (wings are usually dark in colour, but not black). This makes Anyar uncomfortable about his appearance and shy around other people. The wings are also used to express emotion or give an indication as to how the characters are feeling, for example holding the wings up high and close to the body indicates stress and worry and in one scene we see the utter joy that Anyar has in flight. Anyar is terrified when he is captured because he has heard rumours that captured people from his country have their wings removed and to him that would be worse than death. The fact that the wings were so closely connected to the characterisation meant that they never seemed like an add-on or just there to make the story seem a bit different from other fantasy books. The author had really thought carefully about this aspect of the world building and that went a long way towards my enjoyment of the book.
Another thing I liked about this book was the author’s written style. J.C. Owens is a new to me author and so I had no idea what to expect when I began reading the book. I was delighted to find that the written style flows well and that the descriptive passages were rich and evocative, especially in the way the setting is described. The character of Anyar is particularly sympathetic and I found myself feeling a great deal of empathy for him and his situation.
The part of the book that didn’t work as well for me was in the relationship between Anyar and Vanyae. Not on the part of Vanyae and his attraction and then love for Anyar, that part I understood and was easy to accept. In fact, the change in Vanyae’s feelings from a sort of cruel and obsessive need for Anyar into a bewildering love and need for him was done very well. I could see how the good and kind Anyar would incite a change in Vanyae for the better, leading to him falling in love with Anyar. What didn’t work as well was the way that Anyar developed feelings for Vanyae. Although Vanyae treats Anyar with probably more respect than he would a slave, Anyar is isolated, sexually used and made to feel like a possession for Vanyae to get out and play with whenever he desires. The fact that he begins to have feelings for Vanyae made it more akin to Stockholm Syndrome than true love and even a few incidents towards the end of the book did nothing to prevent that little niggly feeling in the back of my mind that Anyar’s feelings were as a result of enforced proximity. Perhaps if the book had been longer and there had been a few more scenes of Anyar and Vanyae developing an emotional connection, I may have felt happier. There were mentions of times when the men sat and spoke to one another, but as all these happened off page, I was only told of the growing feelings rather than seeing for myself. Despite this niggle, I was still satisfied with the ending to the book and was happy about the way the political plot merged with the romance.
I expect many of you are going to have read the words ‘dubious consent’ and already decided that this book isn’t for you. Fair enough. For those of you who don’t mind dub con, I would recommend that you give Wings a try. It’s not without issues, but I found it to be an interesting and well written fantasy novella and I shall certainly be looking out for other books by this author.