Title: Black Wings
Author: Christina Henry
Copyright: 2010 (Ace); 295 pgs.
Series: Madeline Black #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Madeline Black escorts the soul of the recently departed to the Door, the portal to the Here-after. Being an Agent of Death comes with wings and some magical abilities, yet Maddy rarely has to call on those abilities. And the only type of fighting she, occasionally, engages in is the verbal type — some of the dearly departed aren’t keen on leaving and will exercise their freedom of choice by refusing to be escorted. This is frowned upon by management and it is considered a failure on the part of the Agent.
Maddy’s life is pretty routine: discharging her duties as an Agent; butting heads with her boss J. B.; worrying about whether or not she can get a tenant so rental money will start coming in again; working on articles as a freelance writer; hanging out with her best friend Patrick; and spending quality time with her gargoyle, Beezle. Things start to look up, or so Maddy thinks, when a good-looking guy shows up to view her rental. Beezle doesn’t like him, but he won’t tell Maddy why. Other than his asking a few odd questions, Gabriel seems harmless, and Maddy is confident that Beezle would tell her if he was a threat to her.
But shortly after Gabriel’s arrival in Maddy’s life, chaos erupts. She’s attacked by demons. The death of a fellow Agent makes Maddy question what happened to her mother and if there are other Agents who’s deaths are suspicious. Her boss doesn’t believe in demons, so he thinks she’s nuts and won’t help her investigate (vampires, werewolves, and the fae exist, but not demons as far as J. B. is concerned). Secrets come to light and Maddy finds herself tapping into powers she never knew she had and she has no idea how to control. And to top it all off, she finds herself in the middle of the political machinations of the fallen angels.
Despite her flaws, I really liked Maddy. She sometimes acts or speaks without thinking, but I can understand why she does what she does at times. Her life is completely up-ended. She’s trying to fight enemies stronger than her — and if she does succeed in destroying them, she’ll be in big trouble with the fallen angels. She’s being manipulated by others with hidden agendas and she resents how some of them are trying to run her life.
Of all the males in Maddy’s life — not counting Beezle — Gabriel is the only one who I think truly cares for Maddy for herself, and would have her best interest at heart, regardless of his situation. And because of his predicament, any relationship between them is at a stand-still. A LOT of things have to change in their world for them to be together.
The world building is pretty interesting. I like the concept of the Agents. I’d like to know more about how and why the whole business of soul-collecting ended up a bureaucracy, and I hope the author gives us more back story on this.
I also liked Beezle. I wonder how many other readers thought of the gargoyles from Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” whenever Beezle was in a scene.
The story is nearly non-stop action. I found it hard to put down at times because I was caught up in what was going on and I wanted to know what would happen next. I will definitely be reading the next book.
Start: 1 January 2011
Finished: 4 January 2011
“And where does Lucifer live?”
“Of course he does.”
— Maddy, Gabriel