Title: First Flight
Author: Connor Wright
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link First Flight
Genre: Contemporary M/M Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: An idiosyncratic shape changing story with a distinctive and charming but quirky voice.
Blurb: Jesse Swanson’s life is pretty normal: He has a job he doesn’t mind, his parents are pretty decent, and he’s got a boyfriend. So what if he still lives at home? So what if he thinks he argues a little too often with his guy?
Everything changes when he stops to pick up a bird and ends up picking up a new guy instead. Chris, formerly known as Sings-like-water, is fascinated by Jesse’s music and by Jesse himself, but figuring out how to be human isn’t easy—especially when Jesse’s now ex-boyfriend decides he’ll do anything to get Jesse back. Can Jesse and Chris overcome the odds, or will their fledgling romance falter before it can fly?
I found the cover of this book visually very effective. However in terms of visual representation, what this story really made me think of was a block woodcut black raven silhouette; stylized art with a simple and naive charm.
I do suggest that some suspension of disbelief is required here, there is a lot of unquestioning and whimsical acceptance in the society the author has created. Nevertheless this is a often a delightful piece of writing that combines some creative absorption of bird behaviour with an almost Little Mermaid motif of transformation.
“I remember I fell. I fell, because I gave up my wings. For something I could not find in the sky. This one.” He patted Jesse.
While Jesse’s age is not given he appears to be a very young man. He is living at home and still concerned about parent’s wishes. His life is ordinary; working in a supermarket, going out with friends and seeing his boyfriend Kevin. All the details here are of a recognisable social world- Facebook status probably included. Jesse is a lovely character; uncomplicated, kind and genuine. When he is faced with his unexpected meeting with Chris- which involves a dead raven and a confused naked man appearing in his car- his ingenuous acquiescence does feel surprising. Yet I quickly grew to accept the author’s reality. This was partly due to the well crafted creation of Chris’s persona.
The combination of Chris’s bird instinct with his tabula rasa status as a human is developed endearingly.
Jesse wanted a man. It was a fascinating idea, and he turned it over and over, like a spoon in the sunlight.
While appreciating their importance to birds there is perhaps an over emphasis on food and eggs, but overall Chris as Sings-Like- Water was a lot of fun. What I particularly liked was the lack of sentimentality in this imagined personality. Later in the book this added to the quiet pathos of the scene with the magpie Bright-Tail.
Placing a very vulnerable Chris, as Jesse’s mum says, with ” ….something not quite right about him.” in the context of a romance required careful handling. The growing emotional relationship between Jesse and Chris works because of Jesse’s casual open-mindedness.
Someday, I will know who I am. And then I will have two names.”
“And I’ll call you whichever one you want. Are you ready to go see the vultures?”
However it is Jesse’s thoughtful care not to exploit Chris’s innocence that enables the physical relationship to thrive.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the main characters in this book, and even managed to go along with Jesse’s parents easy tolerance of their new house guest’s particular problems, I did have some qualms about Kevin, Jesse’s ex boyfriend. His unexpected transformation into strange obsessive stalker seemed surprising given that Jesse had been with him for a year and had no warning of it. His slide into manipulative paranoia felt odd. I also found his personality was not distinct enough, at some points he came across as almost as unworldly and uneducated as Chris himself. However the identifiable social reaction of other people to Kevin’s behavior- Jesse’s parents, his employers and eventually the police helped ground the book’s quiet fantasy with some realism.
What I particularly liked about First Flight was it’s quite individual voice. The shape changing fantasy was married to reality through the medium of Jesse’s young open hearted acceptance of difference. Indeed for the most part the book is a modern fable of unusual charm.