Review: Black Wings Beating

Book Reviews, Misc.
***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a free, honest review. All opinions are my own.***

black wings beating

“In war, a lot of people had to do things they didn’t like. And this war was only just beginning.” – Alex London, Black Wings Beating

Black Wings Beating Review

By: Rae

This book has me… SHOOK. I’ve been staring at a blank screen for a good 20 minutes trying to convey what I’m feeling. I feel raw, exposed, and grim. I’ll start with a warning that Black Wings Beating isn’t a tale of happiness, or hope, but of a darker look at human nature and the foundations of our instincts based upon survival. There is hope buried in the tale, along with redemption, and there is even love, but it is hidden and teased at but never quite given. It was all a game, a game of chance, luck, stupidity, and ultimately only some would succeed.

I wanted to dislike Black Wings Beating. I wanted to stop reading and hide from what it was telling me because I wasn’t prepared for the emotional hit. I wasn’t prepared for the death, the beatings, the brutality, and overall the ugliness of human nature. I had been content to read the prose, skim over the evil, and continue in ignorance. Yet only a few pages in I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk away. London does a fantastic job with sentence structure, teasing the reader with wanting more, and packing a punch that leaves you breathless. Line after line stuck with me whether it was grizzly or not. It was a love hate with words and a reminder of how a book can be a wakeup call for the imagination. Some sentences may have been too much of a run-on and some maybe weren’t needed, but the descriptions of scenery and feelings were very well defined. The characters more so. I felt like I was living in this book alongside of Kylee and Brysen. I laughed, cried, and hated throughout until the bitter cliff hanging end.

I’m digressing here and want to go back to give a brief summary of the novel. Black Wings Beating takes you on a journey with twins Kylee and Brysen. Both are struggling with their own insecurities and memories, both want freedom in their own way, and both realize they have lost the connection with each other but can’t quite figure out how to fix the problem. When Brysen’s boyfriend – I use this term loosely because this love interest was NOT okay with me – is used as bait for the twins to capture a nearly mythical bird, the ghost eagle, Brysen is reckless in his decision to bargain for time and even promises to get the bird to rescue his love and become the hero of his own story. Kylee can’t let her brother do this alone, knowing he wouldn’t survive and think to plan ahead for complications, and follows him. I’m still not sure how I feel about the motives of these characters. But let’s just say a lot of characters enter the game and stories are blended together seamlessly. Don’t trust anyone though. EVERYONE has their own motive.

In terms of characters, woah. Brysen is the definition of “damaged.” I never quite could pinpoint him or his actions. Part of me feared he was stereotypical in his decisions and rashness and another part of me knew exactly where his emotions were coming from and wanted to cry at his self-hate. Each reveal of a layer of himself was like a band aid being ripped off. He wanted to be a hero and I hope he still has the chance. Then there was his twin Kylee who really tormented me as I tried to connect with her. Everything she does is for her brother as she tries to elevate guilt for not helping him when they were children. She is protective, arrogant, and comes off as standoffish. I still don’t know how I feel about her even when more of her emotions were revealed toward the end. I wanted to like her, really. The father of the twins… let’s avoid him for fear of me ranting. Which means I have to avoid the twin’s mother, Brysen’s NOT OKAY boyfriend, and about a dozen other characters who evoke just too many emotions to put into words or let me wondering at their contributions to the story. They are complex – most of them – and ugly and beautiful all in one. Shout out to Vyvian, Jowyn, and the Crawling Priests because regardless of their parts in this story they were very rich in character and I cannot wait to see more of Jowyn and Vyvian later on. I also hope to redeem best friend Nyall in my eyes. I had another case of wanting to like him but falling flat with his only motivation to get Kylee to love him. He was more lovesick pup than boyfriend material.

As I try to rein in this review, I’m reflecting on Black Wings Beating and knowing I will have to reread the novel. It was thick with emotion and complexity and richness of depth. I still cringe at the beatings and the bloodthirsty-ness of this novel both on and below the surface of the tale. I wasn’t ready for it. Either way, London has certainly written a debut that will haunt me for a long time. I also need to read up on falconry – pronto.

My rating: 5/5

Happy book birthday to Black Wings Beating!

Check out my interview here with Alex London to celebrate his debut’s release.

Interview with Elizabeth Lim

Author Interview

Meet Elizabeth Lim.

Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.

Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and she turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since.

Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She grew up in Northern California, with a brief stint in Tokyo, Japan, but now lives in New York City with her husband.

Elizabeth graduated from Harvard College with a degree in music and a secondary in East Asian Studies, and completed her graduate degrees at the Juilliard School.

She is represented by Gina Maccoby of the Gina Maccoby Literary Agency.

Social Media: 

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The Blood of Stars

Reflection

The Interview

I saw fanfiction and squealed. How has your fanfiction shaped you as a reader and writer? Oh and dare I say it… fangirl? 

Haha, writing fanfiction definitely shaped me as a writer, simply by instilling a love in me for writing! As a kid, I always liked writing short stories, but I usually did them for class assignments and rarely on my own time. Discovering fanfiction totally changed that. I was a huge Star Wars and Sailor Moon nut, among other fandoms, and I started out reading other people’s stories online before deciding to try my hand at writing my own.

Borrowing characters that already exist and making them your own is a fantastic exercise for beginning writers, because so much of the world building is already done so you don’t have to agonize over little details and can get straight into juicy character developments and original plots. Once I was brave enough, I posted my stories online, and I learned so much from the community’s feedback. Anyway, to make a long story short, writing and reading fanfiction was critical to my development as a writer — it helped me love the art, and be open to honing my craft.

Wow. The “too much voice” in your essays really hits home for me. I gave up creative writing two years ago after a professor said there was “too much me” in my writings. How did you overcome the self-doubt when you did start writing again? 

This was tough fr me. Honestly, in college and much of grad school I gave up creative writing to focus on composing good, academic papers. At some point, I don’t know when, I just missed creative writing so much that I started doing it for fun again, and at least until I graduated, I had to compartmentalize my essay-writing brain and my novel-writing brain. It wasn’t easy though — one of my professors definitely warned me that my writing sounded too much like music journalism, and that I sounded like I was trying to entertain my reader, lol (like that’s a bad thing), and in my creative writing, I could see myself overthinking things and making everything way more complicated than it needed to be. Having supportive friends and family helped me get through it, and not being too hard on myself while focusing on getting better.

Does your degree in music, and therefore love of music, ever trickle into your writings or writing habits? 

For sure! I try to pay attention to the rhythm of my words, and you’ll find little homages to music here and there in my stories! I also really love writing musical themes for my characters — it helps me get to know them better!

What is your favorite myth or fairy tale? 

Ahhh this is a tough one. I have so many loves…I love the Eros and Psyche myth, Wild Swans, East of the Sun, the Chinese legend of the Cowherd and the Weaver…you may see hints of a bunch of these in THE BLOOD OF STARS 😉

Reflection is published this year. The next is in the works. Did you suffer any book two syndromes when you began pitching and later writing The Blood of Stars? 

Nope! I actually started writing THE BLOOD OF STARS before I began work on REFLECTION, so I neatly avoided book two syndrome. BoS is the book of my heart, so I was so thrilled when it sold. I am getting nervous and excited about writing BoS II though!

Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers today? 

First off, I feel like all people who love reading books are like kindred souls to me, so high fives all around! Secondly, thanks for taking the time to read this interview (and thank you, Rae for hosting!), and thirdly, I’m really excited to share REFLECTION: A TWISTED TALE and THE BLOOD OF STARS with you all!

REFLECTION: A TWISTED TALE is out tomorrow!

Happy (slightly early) book birthday!

For more information stop by Lim’s website or check out your local bookstore to grab your copy.